Another big solar array pitched for county; this time in Bristol

BRISTOL — GroSolar, project developer and contractor erecting the 4.99 megawatt Green Mountain Power solar array in Panton, is proposing another large solar energy project in Addison County — this time in Bristol.
The project would be sited around 400 feet west of Route 116, north of Stetson Road and west of A. Johnson Company, on the Saunders farm. As envisioned, it would position 200 single-axis solar trackers across what is now a 35-acre corn field. The trackers can get about 15 percent more electricity because they pivot east to west throughout the day, following the sun, according to GroSolar.
Lincoln Lande, business development associate for GroSolar, noted that the site is desirable because it’s flat, open and close to Green Mountain Power’s Hewitt Road substation in Bristol.
The primary screening for the project, Lande said, would be an existing hedgerow between the property and Route 116. GroSolar, in collaboration with its aesthetics experts, will be looking at what kinds of screening might be needed on the north, south or west. Lande acknowledged that the land slopes up as it moves west, so that screening on the east and west sides would need to be accomplished through landscaping rather than by topography.
“We’re really in what I would call the identification or exploratory stage,” Lande said. “We’re siting a few different projects across the state, one potential site being in Bristol. Being in that really early stage of development, we’re currently reaching out to stakeholders, regional bodies, local bodies, adjoining neighbors and the like, filling them in on what we’re looking at and where we are and getting any feedback we can before proceeding with any permitting activities.”
Lande said the project would be very similar in look and feel to the new 4.99 MW Green Mountain Power array in Panton. Now that it’s operational, the Panton array is one of the three largest in the state. The other two — one in Williamstown and one in Hartford — are also 4.99 megawatts. All three reached commercial operation last month. All three were developed and built by GroSolar and owned by GMP.
GroSolar also built the 2MW Cross Pollination solar array off Route 7 in New Haven, which until recently was the largest solar array in Addison County. Lande said that other than the Saunders site in Bristol, GroSolar doesn’t have any other large projects currently proposed for Addison County.
Lande made a presentation to the Bristol Planning Commission on Dec. 20, after speaking with Bristol Zoning Administrator Eric Forand earlier in the month.
At present, GroSolar has just submitted its interconnection application with Green Mountain Power, said Lande, and expects to complete a detailed systems analysis by the end of January. In drafting the initial proposal (see map), the company has already completed a first-draft environmental review to determine if the project could be sited within appropriate buffers for wetlands.
GroSolar, which is based in White River Junction, was acquired last April by the San Diego-based EDF Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of the French energy giant EDF Energies Nouvelles.
GroSolar hopes to submit 45-day notice for the project by late February and, if it determines it wants to develop the site, apply for a Certificate of Public Good by early summer 2017, Lande said.
First, though, it is reaching out to area residents.
“We are absolutely committed to working with stakeholders, gathering any questions answering any questions we can, getting any feedback and doing that early on in the process,” said Lande.
Next steps for GroSolar, said Lande, will be contacting neighbors whose land abuts the proposed site and continuing to work with the Bristol Planning Commission.
Planning commission member John Elder, who chaired the Dec. 20 meeting, said that the body will likely discuss next steps at its Jan. 10 meeting (that meeting is scheduled as a public hearing on a possible six-cottage “pocket village” development on North Street). 
Asked where the renewable energy credits would likely be sold, Lande replied that “truthfully that has all yet to be determined. We’re really in the initial stages of figuring out the precise ownership structure of the project, how the renewable energy credits will work, where they will go, who will claim them and the like.”
Renewable energy generated in one state can be sold to and claimed by another state.
But Lande did add that the project “will go towards meeting Vermont’s renewable energy goals as the only options for the sale of the power are 1) to have a power purchase agreement with Green Mountain Power; or 2) Green Mountain Power would own the system similar to the structure in Panton. Those are the two avenues we’re exploring; the precise structure has yet to be determined.”
A GMP spokesperson said that the company had had only a “very preliminary conversation with GroSolar about Bristol.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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