New Haven braces for next debate on solar arrays

NEW HAVEN — A Waitsfield company has proposed taking advantage of New Haven’s abundant open farmland and close access to three-phase power to site one of the largest solar arrays in town. Green Peak Solar LLC has asked the Vermont Public Service Board for permission to install around 10,500 solar panels on 20 acres off Field Days Road in a 2,200kW net metering solar project.
Residents and others interested in checking out the site and offering their opinions on the project are invited to do so this Wednesday.
Public Service Board hearing officer Michael Tousley will conduct a site visit that  day at 4 p.m. Attendees are asked to park alongside 820 Field Days Road and be dressed to walk at least 700 feet uphill through likely wet meadow to the proposed project area.
Following the site visit, Tousley will host a public hearing at 7 p.m. in the Congregational Church in New Haven village.
This is the opportunity for members of the public, especially those for whom other participation in the Section 248 proceedings may be logistically difficult, to ask questions and let their thoughts be known about the project.
New Haven town officials, long frustrated by the proliferation of solar arrays and the town’s lack of control over regulating them, have lobbied for changes in the law or changes in interpretation of the law. Municipalities have not held any official weight in hearings on proposed utility developments; the Public Service Board has sole discretion on such matters.
In a court filing in front of the Public Service Board this past spring, New Haven officials asserted that state law does, in fact, permit municipalities to regulate some solar projects — setting up a showdown with state regulators that could have statewide implications.
New Haven Selectman Doug Tolles said no action has been taken on that court filing yet. He hopes that those interested in the issue show up on Wednesday.
“I’m hoping a goodly number of people go to the site and the hearing and express their opinions,” he said.
He noted that the proposed solar Field Days Road array is seven times bigger than the largest array allowed in the town plan.
Tolles also said Wednesday’s site visit and hearing are the first step in a process that will last through Dec. 13, after which the Public Service Board will make a decision.

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