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Public Service Board rejects Middlebury solar array

MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Public Service Board has denied a proposal by Bullrock Corp. to install a 150kW solar array near The Residence at Otter Creek (TROC) that would have defrayed around 25 percent of the Middlebury retirement community’s annual energy bill.
Bullrock Corp. is the former owner of TROC, previously known as The Lodge at Otter Creek. That retirement community is now owned by LCB Senior Living of Norwood, Mass. The proposed solar array would have consisted of roughly 700 panels on a combined total of 35 racks dispersed on one acre of land located at 57 Star Point Drive, adjacent to TROC. It was to be a net metering project that would have generated enough electricity to power 40 average-sized Vermont homes, according to Encore Redevelopment, the company that was hired to plan and install the project.
Middle Road Ventures owns the proposed project site and would have leased it to Bullrock. A key to the Public Service Board’s denial of the project is that it would have been located next to an existing 500kW solar array, owned by Middle Road Ventures. The Public Service Board ruled that since the two solar projects would have shared a common fuel source (the sun), common infrastructure/access road and were to be located only around 100 feet from one another, they would have to be considered a single facility. As such, the combined 650 kW of electricity generated by the combined project would exceed the statutory 500kW limit for such a net metering proposal.
Encore Redevelopment officials had argued that the two solar arrays were separate, as they would have had separate ownership, different customers and separate connections to the state’s electricity grid. All of the electricity created by the new solar array would have been funneled into the grid, and TROC, as the customer, would have seen energy credits on its electricity bill as compensation.
But that argument was not enough to persuade the PSB.
“The separate ownership of the two projects is a relevant consideration that weighs in favor of concluding that the two projects are separate facilities,” the board’s ruling reads. “However, the statute makes clear that where a group of structures use the same fuel source, share common infrastructure, and are located in close proximity, that group of structures ‘shall be considered one facility.’ Therefore, in this case, the separate ownership of the projects is not sufficient to overcome the fact that the two projects possess the three characteristics of ‘one facility,’ as the term is defined.”
Bullrock Corp. officials will spend more time reviewing the PSB decision before choosing its next course of action.
Charlie Kireker is managing partner at Middle Road Ventures.
“The applicant anticipated that the PSB would quite possibly deny the application, because the access to the site proposed made use of the same gravel road, and the same transformer; however, the applicant and developer of the proposed project was an entirely unrelated corporation, and the net metering partner was to be The Residence at Otter Creek, instead of Middlebury College, and we hoped that they would find these primary characteristics of the project to be sufficiently different to approve the proposal,” Kireker said.
“At this time, we are evaluating the PSB ruling and considering future options, but no decisions or plans have yet been formulated,” he added.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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