Another solar array proposed for Ferrisburgh

FERRISBURGH — The Ferrisburgh selectboard and more than a dozen town residents at a meeting last week heard from a company that is proposing the latest solar power project in the town, a 500-kilowatt array near the intersection of Basin Harbor and Button Bay roads.
Green Lantern Group has an agreement with the Vorsteveld Farm on a 20-year lease for about 4 acres, said the company’s director of project development, Sam Carlson. That land, at the rear of a cornfield, would house an array that would at its closest point be about 650 feet from the road that leads to the Basin Harbor Club resort.
The array would be about a half-mile from a 1.55KW array owned by the Basin Harbor Club. That project has upset neighbors, who have appealed its Certificate of Public Good to the Vermont Supreme Court and won a recent Supreme Court decision confirming their party status before the PSB.
The Vorsteveld Farm has also agreed with Green Mountain Power to lease 40 acres in Panton for a 5-megawatt array. That power would go directly into the grid and would not involve the sale of renewable energy credits, as does Green Lantern’s proposal.
The Green Lantern proposal comes on the heels of a number of other solar projects in Ferrisburgh that the PSB has approved or that are in the PSB pipeline:
The PSB has issued Certificates of Public Good (CPGs) for:
•  A 494KW addition to the 1-megawatt Ferrisburgh Community Solar project on Route 7, next to Vergennes Union High School. Additional solar panels will be installed there running southward toward a hedgerow near New Haven Road. The developer of the project is discussing with the Addison Northwest Supervisory Union how it might benefit ANwSU schools, according to documents filed at the Ferrisburgh Town Clerk’s Office and ANwSU officials.
•  A 500KW array nearby that project, also on the west side of Route 7, next to the railroad tracks. That array is linked to the Armory Lane senior housing project.
•  A 150KW array on Greenbush Road, about a quarter-mile west of Route 7.
According to town officials, the PSB is currently considering two other 150KW solar array proposals, one on Monkton Road near Bisbee Road, and one on Middlebrook Road between Monkton and Wing roads. The PSB has asked for more details on aesthetics on both projects, officials said. Another proposal, for an array on the Dollar General property at the intersection of Route 7 and Monkton Road, has been dropped, they said.
Knowing all those proposals were on the way, the Ferrisburgh selectboard at an April 7 meeting passed a resolution, one that circulated among a number of Vermont towns, asking state legislators to amend laws to give towns more say in the siting of renewable energy projects during PSB proceedings.
At that time, board members said they do not oppose renewable energy, but were concerned the PSB was not paying attention to local towns’ and residents’ concerns about solar array siting.
Selectboard members expressed no opinion last week on Green Lantern’s preliminary plans.
At the Oct. 20 selectboard meeting, Carlson emphasized Green Lantern’s plans are in an early stage. Green Lantern has not yet sent out a 45-day letter to regulators, town officials and project neighbors announcing its intent to apply to the PSB for the CPG it would need before going ahead with array construction.
Carlson described Green Lantern as a developer of commercial net-metered solar arrays that finds commercial partners to purchase the renewable energy credits (RECs) available to support such projects — often towns, universities and hospitals as well as businesses and financial entities. The company, he said, has already developed arrays in towns that include Rutland, Proctor and Ryegate, and is working in other towns.
For this project, Green Lantern is partnering with Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamery, because, Carlson said, the creamery has a “huge electric bill” that can be offset directly with RECs.
Carlson said the Vorsteveld Farm contacted Green Lantern after word went out through Agri-Mark/Cabot that the company was seeking a good site for an array. He described the back of the field as triangular and thus “not ideal” for harvesting corn, and “set way back” from the road.
Carlson said Green Lantern believed it was important to reach out to town officials and residents early in the process; he met with the Ferrisburgh Planning Commission on Wednesday night.
“Our policy is to talk to towns as upstream as possible,” he said. “What you are seeing is where we are at this stage.”
He said details such as whether the access road would enter the property on the east or west side and landscaping provisions remain to be ironed out, and that Green Lantern was not yet ready to submit a permit application.
Ideally, he said, the 45-day letter of intent could go out next month, and a permit application would follow by late December or early January.
Then would come the most critical period for those in Ferrisburgh with an interest in the project, the three-week period during which the PSB will accept comments on the proposal from neighbors and legal interveners.
After that, Carlson said, the PSB typically takes about three months to evaluate a project, meaning Green Lantern could receive a CPG by June and complete installation in July.
In the meantime, Carlson said, “We’re really anxious to get your feedback.”
In response to questions, Carlson said he could not guarantee the renewable energy credits would stay in Vermont, because Agri-Mark/Cabot could choose to sell them to an out-of-state buyer.
Carlson also said Green Lantern would not plant small trees to screen the panels and wait for them to grow, but would use mature landscaping.
“We’re not going to plant something that is one foot high,” he said.
Wayne Stearns, owner of the adjacent farm to the north, said Green Lantern could not count on the existing hedgerow to shield the array from that direction because he planned to remove it, and Carlson thanked him for the information.
Stearns also raised the issue that the array would devalue his land if he chose to develop it.
Carlson said the PSB has historically refused to “take into account” the potential impact of arrays on property values, nor has any study yet demonstrated an impact. However, he recommended that Stearns “make your comments known to the PSB” during the three-week comment period.
Resident Harry Curth asked how Green Lantern could guarantee the array would be removed after 20 years.
Carlson said even if his company went bankrupt, the bank could take over the project and find a buyer for it because it would be generating valuable power. Failing that, the Vorsteveld Farm could take possession and either sell the power or the scrap metal, which had a current value of about $200,000.
Resident Mary Kerr objected to Carlson’s statement that screening was not intended to make the array “invisible” from the road, but rather mitigate its impact. 
“We’re proud of Vermont and how beautiful it is,” Kerr said. “Surely we can be creative coming up with a way to disguise that area so it remains beautiful.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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