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500kW solar array in Brandon gets state approval

BRANDON — The town of Brandon has received a Certificate of Public Good for a 500-kilowatt, net metering solar array located in the town industrial park.
The Public Service Board, which authorizes and regulates all power-generating projects in Vermont, issued the required CPG for the Brandon array on March 17.
The project is being built in partnership with Green Lantern Capital, which provides solar development and financing for municipalities, schools, nonprofits, hospitals, state buildings and businesses. In developing the projects, the group leases the land but owns and operates the arrays itself.
The group represents investors who fund the projects. The host, in this case the town of Brandon, will use some of the power generated by the solar projects to cut utility costs. The rest of the power will be sold to the regional electrical grid.
Brandon Town Manager Dave Atherton said Monday that in this case, the town will collect land lease payments from Green Lantern and will see a 15 percent savings in town electricity costs.
He said Green Lantern has signed a 20-year lease on the 7.28-acre lot, with the option of up to three, five-year renewals for a limit of 35 years.
According to the CPG issued last week, the project calls for the construction of a 500kW solar generation facility covering 3.4 acres of the 7.28-acre parcel, currently used as a hayfield. The parcel is located at 188 Robert Wood Road in the Brandon Industrial Park off Arnold District Road. Atherton said the array would not be visible from Arnold District Road.
The solar panels will be ground-mounted on a rack system, and accessible from a new gravel access driveway that will be built near the end of Robert Wood Road. A perimeter fence, with a locked gate, will also be built around the array.
In issuing the CPG, the Public Service Board determined that the project was in keeping with the Brandon Town Plan and the Rutland Regional Plan, and that it would not adversely affect agricultural soils, resource waters, erosion, traffic, aesthetics, historic sites, wildlife or the natural environment.
Although there is a nearby Class II wetland along the Robert Wood Drive access road and southeast of the project site, the PSB concluded that the project “has been designed to avoid all wetlands as well as the 50-foot buffer area surrounding the wetlands.”
This was an area of concern for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR), a party to the proceedings, which asserted that the project “has the potential to cause undue adverse effect on wetlands.”
To mitigate those potential adverse impacts, ANR recommended the following steps, which the PSB upheld:
•  That the project not infringe on the 50-foot buffer surrounding the wetlands.
•  That highly visible marking around the perimeter of the project be made to avoid accidental encroachment on the wetlands.
•  That erosion and sediment control measures be established and maintained during construction.
•  That the project not be modified in any way that would impact the wetlands without notifying ANR and receiving approval.
Atherton said work will begin in the coming construction season and that the project is slated to be completed this year.
“We’re glad to be able to cut some costs to the town and save the taxpayers some money,” he said. “We’re also glad the project won’t be an eyesore.”

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