4.9-megawatt solar project in works

Town planning commission met with company

By Elaine Ezerins

Staff Writer

The Facts

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ST. ALBANS TOWN — A Vermont-based solar development company wants to start building a 4.9-megawatt solar panel project near Bronson Road by May of next year.

“We got quite a few of these in the town of St. Albans,” Brent Brigham, vice chair of the planning commission, said. “How many more do we need?”

Co-Founder of Green Peak Solar (GPS), LLC, Nathaniel Vandal, introduced the project to the St. Albans Town’s planning commission Tuesday. The company, founded by two graduates of Middlebury College, is based out of Waitsfield.

The project would be located on a 40-acre parcel of land, leased by Tim Camisa, the CEO of Vermont Organics Reclamation. A portion of the land falls into the industrial zone while the majority is designated as rural.

While Bronson Road and Route 7 run along either side of the property, the project is set to be over 2,000 feet from any structure. Photos provided by Vandal display significant tree coverage, hiding the proposed project site for the most part, with only one or two houses along Bronson Road visible from the field.

Vandal said he couldn’t see the property from any vantage point along Route 7, but at the planning commission’s request, was willing to take a second look in the areas where new developments were going.

He said he hopes this project will be one of the better sited solar panel projects the town has seen.

According to Vandal, GMP has already “expressed interest” in purchasing the power created from this smaller scale project.

“That’s contrary to what they’ve been saying publicly though,” Al Voegele, planning commission member, said.

“Green Mountain Power has been positive with projects below five megawatts,” Vandal said, “because it saves them revenues on transmission and capacity charges which a regional grid operator charges them.” According to Vandal, GMP has been less receptive to large megawatt projects.

Camisa already has his barn linked to a three-phase power line. Deemed suitable to hold additional power by GMP, Vandal plans to extend the power line to the solar panel project, connecting it to the GMP power grid.

He said he would prefer to go overhead with utilities because of its cost effectiveness, rather than bury the lines underground.

Vandal and his partner are still debating over whether to go with fixed tilt or single access tracker solar panels. The second option, which rotates east to west with the rise and fall of the sun, are “substantially more expensive,” according to Vandal.

Whichever model they decide to go with, Camisa hopes to allow his sheep to roam underneath the panels to act as non-mechanical lawn mowers.

All in all, Vandal expects the project to bring $16,000 a year in tax revenue to the town.

After its shelf life of 25 to 30 years expires, the project can either be repowered or the land can be used for agriculture purposes once again.

If the second option is chosen, the state will be able to pay for the decommissioning process with a letter of credit posted with the Vermont Public Service Board by GPS.

Vandal also said that all of the soil stripped from the land to make room for the solar panels will be deposited somewhere on site in order to make the return transition easier.

“As far as I’m hearing tonight, it sounds positive,” chair Sam Smith said.

Smith said the planning commission would share their opinions about the proposed solar panel project after the company files a petition with the Public Service Board.

Vandal expects to file next month with a subsequent 45-day notice period.