HINSDALE — With a colossal solar project still in the planning stages, area residents got a chance Monday evening to weigh in on the proposed array — which developers say would be the largest in the state — and focused their questions on the project’s potential environmental impact.

Representatives of the Chariot Solar project, a 140,000-panel array that would cover about 265 acres, facilitated a public information session at Town Hall, where community members could ask questions and submit comments to be considered by the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee.

That group will determine whether the project — led by Florida-based energy company NextEra Energy and TRC, a national engineering and construction consulting firm headquartered in Connecticut — can move forward.

The event began with an “open house,” where attendees could look at maps and posters, and speak with people working on the project. Kaleigh Crissman, the project developer for Chariot Solar LLC, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, shared an overview of the Chariot Solar array, before taking questions and comments from the public.

Doreen Wonderlick, whose property abuts the proposed site — a swath of land between Monument and North roads, with Route 119 to the west and Plain Road to the east — expressed concern about how the array might impact nearby land.

“I am not opposed to solar — I have solar power on my house,” she said. “I am opposed to taking over woodlands and farmlands. I’ve always had a visceral reaction to taking over natural habitats and working agricultural land for these large solar and wind projects.”

Wonderlick added that she doesn’t believe the project’s benefits are enough to justify developing the land. Following the presentation, she told The Sentinel that she bought her property in 2018, and first learned of the proposed solar array when she received a letter earlier this month informing her of the public meeting Monday.

Janet Sinclair, of Shelburne Falls, Mass., also said she’s worried about the potential effects on area wildlife. Similar solar projects have been proposed and built in her home state, she said, and she’s concerned about clear-cutting forests and interrupting wildlife corridors.

Dana Valleau, a project manager with TRC, said the consulting group is working with the N.H. Fish and Game Department and Natural Heritage Bureau to determine what seeds to plant throughout the array to make it a pollinator-friendly area. The fencing around the array would also stop six inches short of the ground, allowing small animals to pass through, and the Solar Chariot team has worked to avoid planning the site on wetlands and stream corridors, he said.

Valleau told The Sentinel after the meeting that some changes will need to be made to the land prior to construction, including clearing about 245 acres of trees and grading the property to ensure stormwater runoff is captured and treated. He added that there are a few fields on the proposed site, including one that’s completely fallow and one that’s been used for hay production.

If completed, the Chariot Solar facility would generate up to 50 megawatts of energy — enough to power as many as 7,000 homes, Bryan Garner, communications director for NextEra told The Sentinel last week. At Monday’s meeting, Crissman said she was unsure what the average energy output would be each year, when taking into account cloudy days when the panels absorb less solar energy.

Over its lifetime, the project is estimated to generate $41 million in added economic value (which is akin to a gross domestic product) within the state, according to Matt Magnusson of Seacoast Economics, who performed the economic analysis of the project. That figure includes what Chariot Solar would spend on construction and the payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the town, he said.

In 2019, Energy New England, an energy trading organization based in Massachusetts, issued a request for proposals for projects to generate electricity to power the greater New England electric grid. Chariot Solar was one of the proposals selected, and the two organizations entered a power-purchase agreement the same year. The agreement has a term of 20 years, Garner said. Depending on the commercial need after two decades, NextEra would either re-contract the facility or decommission it, Crissman said.

Monday’s public information session was required by the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee, which determines whether the project serves the public interest and if it will have an adverse effect on a community’s aesthetics, natural environment, health or safety. NextEra must wait at least 30 days from Monday’s public session before submitting its application — which can include comments from the public — to the committee, which then has 60 days to decide if it will select the application. If accepted, there will be another public information session for the project.

More information about the project is available at ChariotSolarProject.com.

NextEra is also involved in another large-scale, local solar project. Last year, the company got the go-ahead to build the 30-megawatt Chinook Solar Project in Fitzwilliam. The project was the first solar array large enough to require approval from the Site Evaluation Committee. The company is currently working out logistics of the project’s interconnection agreement, Garner said. At Monday’s meeting, Garner told The Sentinel the project could not break ground until the agreement is finalized.

Molly Bolan can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436 or mbolan@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @BolanMolly.