State officials planning Vergennes solar array

VERGENNES — The Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services is planning to seek Public Service Board approval for a 500-kilowatt solar farm on state-owned land in Vergennes, according to local officials and state documents.
The proposed 5-acre site is part of a 196-acre tract that also includes Northlands Job Corps at its south and central end. The solar panels would be sited on Comfort Hill, across from the large barn there that houses Comfort Hill Kennel. The site is about 1,500 feet north of the intersection of Comfort Hill and High Street and a similar distance from the Ferrisburgh town line.
A letter sent to city officials and abutters included a map that shows 71 solar tracking panels and an access point from the west side of the road. The letter describes the site as “a revegetating field,” and that panels will be no taller than 20 feet and no wider than 22 feet, with a minimum of four feet of ground clearance. Their bases will be 50 feet apart.
The letter states, “This project is proposed to be sited in such a way that it will be minimally visible from public vantage points or from residential developments,” in part because of “nearby higher forests, roadside vegetation and topography.”
The PSB process does allow for public comment, but it has not started yet; abutters will be notified. According to the letter, the state and its installation partner, Vermont AllSun Solar VI LLC, were planning to file an application for a PSB Certificate of Public Good by Dec. 29, and if approved the project would be “operational in 2015.”
Rep. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, told the Vergennes City Council that Buildings and General Services officials chose the site after a statewide search, and that the solar farm would be part of the state’s ongoing effort to reduce Vermont’s carbon footprint.
The project would, if approved, feed power into the local grid on a net-metered basis. According to the letter, the annual expected output of 750,000kW would be dedicated to a state-owned office building in Montpelier. That building would end up with credits on its Green Mountain Power energy bill based on the solar farm’s production.
“This project will help the state meet its goal to receive locally produced solar energy, support local renewable energy jobs, and yield the state a net savings compared to current retail electrical rates,” according to the letter.

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