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Parcel near Lodge at Otter Creek eyed for solar farm

MIDDLEBURY — Developers of the South Ridge neighborhood off Middle Road in Middlebury are seeking permission to install a 500-kilowatt solar farm on a 3.3-acre parcel near the Lodge at Otter Creek.
The project, if OK’d by state utility regulators, is expected to generate enough electricity to power more than 100 homes while remaining relatively inconspicuous due to the topography and surroundings of the three-acre parcel on which it would be sited.
At 500Kw, the project would be roughly half as big as the Ferrisburgh Solar Farm off Route 7 south near Vergennes Union High School. That $5-million, 1-Megawatt project features 3,806 photovoltaic panels that harness enough sunlight to power 170 homes each year. By comparison, the South Ridge Solar Project will feature around 2,100 fixed panels featured in an array made up of a series of fixed-tilt ground mounted racking systems with a maximum height of 10 feet.
Encore redevelopment is coordinating the project on behalf of Middle Road Ventures LLC (MSV), which in 2005 received town approval for a 45-lot subdivision off Middle Road. Eight homes have thus far been built at the site with another two under contract, according to Charlie Kireker, a partner in MSV.
The lay of the land, its proximity to electricity infrastructure and its exposure to ample sunlight made it a logical location for a solar farm, according to Kireker.
“We have had it said to us more than once, by engineers with Central Vermont Service Corp. and Green Mountain Power, that in their view this was an optimal site — and one of the best they’d seen in Vermont — for solar development,” Kireker said.
Because of the alternating slopes, hedgerows and tree lines in the project area, the solar farm would be within the sight line of a limited number of residents at the Lodge at Otter Creek to the north. No one living in the South Ridge neighborhood would be able to see it, according to Kireker.
MSV will be the developer and partial owner of the project, according to Kireker, who said he is pursuing “any incentives available under the tax codes” to help underwrite the costs of the solar farm. Electricity generated from the project will be funneled into the state’s utility grid and sold to customers who specifically request — and pay a premium for — the renewable energy.
As a net metering project, the South Ridge Solar Project application will require a certificate of public good from the Vermont Public Service Board. And while the project will not be subjected to local permitting requirements, town officials have been copied on the application and don’t foresee any problems with it.
“It’s in a secluded location and we are not aware it would be objectionable to anybody,” said Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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