Broadleaf Solar reaches out a neighborly hand

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The proposed 100-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic energy facility in Granby/East Granby is expected to produce approximately 160,000 MW hours of electricity per year, enough to power 15,000 homes, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates.

In 2021, D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments (DESRI Renewables LLC of New York City) purchased 665 acres of land in Granby and East Granby, the former Monrovia Nursery Company property, for $7.2 million, with plans to build a photovoltaic solar facility like its 130-acre Tobacco Valley Solar Farm in Simsbury that opened in 2019 and its 485-acre Gravel Pit Solar site in East Windsor, which is set to open this year. The Granby portion of the proposed project, Broadleaf Solar, is 322 acres at 35 Floydville Road and 90 Salmon Brook St.

Renewable energy projects are controlled and overseen by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and by the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC), which is responsible for regulating public utilities. This includes the siting of power facilities, transmission lines and hazardous waste.

Today, the CSC is charged with ensuring a balance between low consumer cost for public utilities and protecting the environment and ecology of the state, including scenic, historic and recreational resources.

So why does DESRI, which has built successful renewable energy projects across the nation and does not answer to Granby officials and citizens, work so hard to provide transparency and establish a good relationship with the town and its people?

The truth of the matter is that Broadleaf Solar and DESRI have no obligation to share plans and answer questions posed by Granby citizens. Yet they are doing just that.

“We just like being a good neighbor,” said project developer John Gravel at an open house that DESRI hosted for the Granby community at the senior center on May 22. Gravel said that DESRI’s experience with dozens of successful projects across the country has taught its team the value of a good relationship with the communities in which they do business.

Prior to the community open house, DESRI executive director Aaron Svedlow and Gravel presented their proposal at a March 18 special board of selectmen’s meeting at which First Selectman Mark Fiorentino explained, “Under Connecticut law, our town will have no direct jurisdiction over this project.” He added that Granby will, however, provide input to the CSC before a decision is made on the Broadleaf application. Sixty days before submitting the application to the CSC, Broadleaf will give the town a copy to review. “So far, they have been very cooperative, providing information, listening to questions and providing answers,” Fiorentino said.

The project

The proposed 100-megawatt (MW) solar photovoltaic energy facility in Granby/East Granby is expected to produce approximately 160,000 MW hours of electricity per year, enough to power 15,000 homes, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. Town Manager Mike Walsh told the Drummer in mid-June that Eversource is purchasing the electricity generated in Granby. “Eversource operates throughout New England, so what they purchase here could be used in Massachusetts, Connecticut or any other state they need it in,” Walsh said.

Project Developer Maria Smith-Lopez said that the Broadleaf project is consistent with the state’s vision for a clean energy future. “It will help the state advance toward its goal of 100-percent zero carbon energy sources by 2040,” she explained. “We hope that Granby folks like the idea of a project that advances this goal set right here in their town.”

Residents who attended the open house, principally abutters to the property and those living in close proximity to it, were primarily concerned with how the land will look and how much noise will flow from the inverters, devices that control the flow of electrical power.

Gravel explained that the land, currently depleted of topsoil, will be planted to resemble a low-maintenance meadow, with native wildflowers and grasses interspersed with plants such as radishes, whose deep roots will stabilize the soil. Pesticides, which Monrovia widely applied, will be minimally used to control invasive species. Periodic mowing will be conducted to maintain healthy vegetation. No irrigation will be necessary. While a wooded buffer already surrounds portions of the property, native plants will be added to screen areas devoid of buffering vegetation.

Svedlow said that his team will contact all abutters and a representative will meet with each abutter individually “to make sure folks are getting the visual mitigation and plantings that they want.”

A sound-modeling assessment has been conducted so that inverters can be placed where the low-level sound they emit does not reach residents living nearby. “We have to meet a high bar set by the CSC,” Svedlow said. “We also must follow Connecticut DEEP’s noise regulations, which include noise standards by land use.” Svedlow said that projects built under regulatory agency guidelines do not negatively impact residents.

To ensure its projects’ safety, Broadleaf works with first responders to ensure that they have the training and equipment needed to address an “unlikely” emergency. As part of the permitting process, the company must develop both an emergency management and evacuation plan and an operation and management plan to be updated during both construction and operation of the project, which will be fenced in and remotely monitored 24/7.

How Granby would benefit

As reported by Walsh in the June Drummer, “If built, tax revenue over the 25-to-40-year life of the facility could approach $175,000 per year, making this site our fourth largest taxpayer. The developer may also propose a one-time impact payment to the town, which could be up to $750,000, or he may propose a portion of the property be preserved for future economic development.”

Walsh told the Drummer that the taxes currently collected on the property total about $59,000 per year. “If the solar farm is built, the projection, which could change depending on what is built, could produce $175,000 per year in taxes for the life of the solar array, which is 25 years,” he explained. This would make Broadleaf the town’s fourth largest taxpayer. “I’m not sure if the current category for taxation is farmland, but certainly if the solar farm is built, the assessor would likely consider some or all of the solar equipment as personal property, which would be the reason the tax flow would increase to the town from $59,000 to $179,000 per year.”

Solar projects like Broadleaf are environmentally friendly, generating clean, zero-carbon energy and are estimated by the EPA to remove approximately 115,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually while providing long-term stewardship of the land.

DESRI’s application must include a detailed plan for decommissioning the solar array at the end of its life expectancy. It is yet to be determined whether the Granby solar field will be dismantled or refurbished to continue producing clean energy. That decision will be made following an evaluation toward the end of the project’s life.

Svedlow confirmed that DESRI is working to offer a neighborly gift to Granby. “We talked to [town officials] about what would be in their best interest,” he said. “It’s entirely possible that we could carve out a chunk of land on the corner of Floydville Road and Salmon Brook St. for the town.”

Christine Kidder, who lives on Archie Lane, said she would like to see DESRI provide a multi-use pathway linking the rail trail to Salmon Brook Park. “I like this project,” she said. “I especially like that it doesn’t stress the services we have in town.”

Fiorentino said the town has no deal with DESRI regarding any perks. “This property has been zoned for economic development for a long time,” he added. “We asked if they would consider carving out some land for community development. That corner [across from the town-owned Freshies Café property] is served by public infrastructure, but we have to wait and see what happens. DESRI is working hard to be a good neighbor. They have no obligation to be here talking to the community.”

Gravel attended via Zoom the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission meeting on June 12 to answer questions about the proposed project. Commissioners asked Gravel to consider pulling back panels from protected areas, to ensure erosion control and to increase the buffers near wetlands and roads. Commissioner Nicholas Dethlefsen vehemently opposed the project, calling it “insanity. You might as well cover the whole town with these things,” he said. “You’ll be able to see this thing from the moon.” Dethlefsen also objected to the town’s having no authority over the project and to Gravel’s not attending the meeting in person. Gravel, who lives in Falmouth, Maine, was present at the March 18 special selectmen’s meeting and at the May 22 open house.

If DEEP and the CDC approve Broadleaf’s application, company officials expect the project to be operational in late 2026 or early 2027.

A comprehensive project overview can be found at To watch the March 18 special board of selectmen’s meeting, visit

Who decides?

Renewable energy projects are controlled and overseen by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and by the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC). CSC also has jurisdiction over the siting of electric substations, transmission lines, telecommunications and hazardous waste facilities, whether the applicant is a commercial entity or a town.