Panton solar battery advances

PANTON — Green Mountain Power officials are now working on completing a final, and key, step involved with siting a 5-megawatt solar array on a Panton farm not far from the town’s office building and highway garage.
As part of an effort called eVolve Panton that grew out of discussions with the town’s selectboard, GMP agreed to partner with Efficiency Vermont to offer Panton home, farm and business owners energy audits and design work; help fund and design energy improvements to Panton’s town buildings; and install a car-charging station and solar lighting at the park-and-ride lot across the road from Panton Town Hall. Those efforts are largely complete.
Now GMP is turning its attention on providing a battery-backed emergency backup system to town and surrounding buildings, one that can also supply energy to the larger grid when needed.
The effort centers on a $3 million, 1 megawatt Tesla battery that, according to GMP Vice President Josh Castonguay, will be installed in a small structure within the solar array, which lies on Vorsteveld Farm land west of Panton Road’s west end.
“It’s a really small footprint. It actually sits inside the solar array so you won’t see it behind screening,” Castonguay said.
That battery, he said, will be strong enough to serve the area around Panton’s town buildings in the case of an outage. With the solar array operating and recharging the battery, the battery could keep producing power indefinitely.
“It might be 20 or 30 buildings in between there, and they could ride through many hours. With the solar they could go for days, basically,” Castonguay said.
Once completed, the Panton community battery project will be GMP’s second. The first is in the Stafford Hill Solar Project in Rutland.
Carlson also recently told Vermont Public Radio that batteries like those in these two projects can be used to supply additional power to the larger grid during periods of peak demand and become an important part of the state’s alternative energy plan.
“We want to go toward a future that’s home-, business- and community-based, and battery storage is a really important component of that,” she said.
GMP has applied to the Public Utilities Commission (until recently the Public Service Board) for the Certificate of Public Good the company needs to proceed in Panton, and Carlson said GMP is optimistic moving forward about getting the green light late this year or early in 2018.
“We’re just working through the regulatory approvals on that,” Carlson said.
GMP held a public hearing on the battery project at Vergennes Union High School on Monday, but no one attended to ask questions about an idea that GMP and the Panton selectboard have discussed since at least March 2016.
Once approval is forthcoming, Carlson said work could be completed in the “2018 spring-summer time frame.”

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