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New Haven-based solar firm gets boost from court ruling

NEW HAVEN — One of the state’s largest prospective solar installations — more than twice the size of the Ferrisburgh Solar Farm — may have jumped its final legal hurdle, when the Vermont Supreme Court upheld a Public Service Board (PSB) certificate of public good.
The Vermont PSB issued the Burlington-based Cross Pollination Inc. a certificate of public in good in July to move ahead with its proposed 2.2-megawatt solar farm, located off Route 7 at the Open View Farm. The fixed solar panels would be integrated with a livestock and vegetable farm and would provide enough solar energy to power roughly 77 percent of New Haven’s 650 homes.
New Haven resident John Madden filed a motion for reconsideration to the PSB on the grounds that the project would ruin the aesthetics of the region. The PSB denied his motion, and he took his case to the Vermont Supreme Court. On April 12, the court issued a decision, siding with the PSB. It reads: “The record supports the Board’s general finding that the Project will not have an undue adverse effect on the aesthetics of the land.”
Following this decision, Madden filed a notice for a forthcoming motion of reconsideration. The deadline for filing that motion is April 26. If Madden files this motion, the court can deny it. As of the end of the day on Tuesday, the court had not received his motion.
If Madden doesn’t file a motion for reconsideration, Cross Pollination President Paul Lekstutis said the company, which was created for this project, would move ahead.
“Right now we’re contemplating how we’re going to approach this if he does file for reconsideration, whether we’re going to wait for the Supreme Court to make a decision or look at something else,” said Lekstutis.
For Cross Pollination, time is of the essence. In order to meet the company’s standard offer contract with the state, which pays the company 30 cents for every kilowatt-hour it produces, the farm needs to be up and running by the end of the year. With that in mind, Lekstutis is aiming to begin construction in July, if no legal hang-ups prevent it.
The project, which was first proposed almost two years ago, has undergone scrutiny from the town of New Haven and a lengthy line of litigations with Madden. Prolonging the project will hold some consequences, but it could also bring unintended benefits.
For one, Cross Pollination has run upwards of $60,000 in attorney fees. Also, at the end of 2011, the U.S. Department of Treasury Section 1603 expired, which provides federal reimbursements for energy installations like this one. There is a clause protecting projects that had a certain level of investment before 2011, but Lekstutis and his team aren’t sure whether they’ll be eligible for the reimbursements.
So, what’s the potential benefit of being held up in litigations for over a year?
The cost of solar photovoltaic equipment has begun to plummet this year. Lekstutis said that a similar solar panel that cost roughly $1.35 per watt last year, now goes for about $1.05.
For a project of this magnitude, that’s a difference of $440,000 in savings for delaying one year.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected] 

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