Opinion: Developer gives overview of proposed solar project

The Green Lantern Group (GLG) is a small renewable energy developer based in Waterbury that has proposed a solar project in New Haven just north of New Haven Power Equipment. GLG understands that solar project aesthetics are important to the residents of New Haven and has taken steps to ensure that it would be invisible to the public. A driver traveling through New Haven cannot see the nine-foot poles with bright orange flags currently occupying the proposed project site. These poles are the same height the solar panels will be when they are installed and were put there to demonstrate that for all intents and purposes the array will be invisible.
The proposed project site is on the Russell family land, a parcel that the family has owned since 1788. Leasing the four acres that the project will occupy will help the Russell family keep the rest of their 195-plus acres of farmland. The project will help honor the local agricultural traditions of New Haven and keep the land open and free of development. It seems that four acres of solar is a much more preferable option to selling off the land for commercial development along Route 7.
GLG strongly believes local input should be taken into consideration when siting solar projects. With this belief in mind GLG worked closely and in a consultative manner with the New Haven Planning Commission on the siting of this solar project with the ultimate goal of making the project invisible.
By way of background, GLG notified the planning commission of the plans to construct a solar array on the Russells’ property on Feb. 9, 2015. At the next meeting on May 11, 2015, GLG presented the initial solar site plans, which included the intent to site the array more than 900 feet west of Route 7 and over an existing berm so that it would not be visible from any public viewpoint. Siting the array so far from Green Mountain Power’s electricity lines along Route 7 requires tens of thousands of dollars in extra cost, but GLG agreed to assume the additional expense to minimize any potential aesthetic impacts.
After the Vermont Public Service Board issued a Certificate of Public Good for the project, GLG notified the planning commission of the board’s decision. At the meeting on May 11, 2016, the planning commission generally agreed that the project was well sited, as reflected in the minutes from the meeting (minutes from all planning commission meetings are available on the New Haven town website).
Despite the cultural and environmental benefits, the fact that the project would be invisible to the public and despite the collaboration and careful planning, the New Haven selectboard has decided to spend town residents’ taxpayer dollars to appeal the project’s Certificate of Public Good.
It begs the question: Why has the New Haven selectboard chosen to spend the tax dollars of New Haven citizens on lawyers to appeal this particular project to the Vermont Supreme Court? Why waste taxpayer dollars on an array that will not be visible when it’s built, especially if it will generate steady tax revenue for the town of New Haven for the next 20-25 years? If the New Haven Planning Commission does not consider the project harmful and in violation of the town plan, why does the selectboard? Isn’t this exactly the type of solar project New Haven would want?
Sam Carlson
Director of Project Development
The Green Lantern Group
South Burlington

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