528-panel solar array goes online in Middlebury

MIDDLEBURY — New solar panels installed behind the Middlebury police station are now providing power to the project partners, Co-operative Insurance Companies of Middlebury, the town of Middlebury and the Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op.
The solar power array known as Acorn Energy Solar One, or AESO, is a community solar photovoltaic project organized by the Middlebury-based Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op. AESO is the legal entity that owns the 528-panel solar array.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate AESO was held last Friday at the police station off Lucius Shaw Lane. Representatives of the three partners and several of the project’s participants and supporters attended the ceremony.
“This ribbon-cutting represents the culmination of over a year of planning and hard work,” said Greg Pahl, president of the energy co-op board. “I want to thank everyone who has helped us make this collaborative community project a reality.”
The solar panels received their final inspections and began producing electricity during the last week of December.
AESO worked with Encore Redevelopment of Burlington on project development and construction management. Alteris Renewables Inc. of Montpelier was the general contractor for the project.
AESO is leasing the acre of town-owned land behind the police station that hosts the solar panels. The ground-mounted solar array is expected to generate 172,500 kilowatt hours of electricity each year — enough to provide electricity for about 30 homes. The three project partners are each receiving one-third of the electricity produced by the solar array.
The Acorn Energy Co-op’s third of the project’s output has been further subdivided between 16 energy co-op members under a group net-metering arrangement. Each of the subscribers will get a 2 percent share of the solar output and a small break on their utility bills for the next 25 years.
The success of this project was noted by John Tenny, chair of the Middlebury selectboard, who acknowledged the serious potential for similar projects in the future.
“I want to single out the work of the Acorn Energy Co-op for praise here as the creative and driving force behind this effort, and as the successful developer in its first test in building a working public/private partnership and guiding this project to completion,” said Tenny. “Once again, we see the power and opportunity of a community working together to meet its needs, and the Middlebury selectboard and administration stand in strong support of this and future local renewable energy efforts. I hope this is just the beginning of the good projects that Acorn Energy Co-op can develop in Middlebury.”
The Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op is actively considering a follow-up solar project for 2012.
“This is the first co-op/co-op/municipal collaboration in the state for a project like this, which is especially appropriate since 2012 is the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.” Pahl said. “We hope that Acorn Energy Solar One will inspire other communities and cooperatives around the state to organize locally-owned renewable energy projects of their own.”
“We’re very excited that the solar array is in the ground and producing clean, sustainable, affordable power,” said Dave Tatlock, chief financial officer of Co-op Insurance. “It’s a real credit to the Acorn Energy Co-op, the town of Middlebury, and all the other parties involved that we were able to make this vision a reality. We look forward to seeing other local companies help to develop similar projects.”

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