Route 7 in Ferrisburgh eyed for big solar array

FERRISBURGH — Green Mountain Power and groSolar are expected early this month to file jointly to the Vermont Public Utility Commission for a Certificate of Public Good that would allow the companies to install a 4.99-megawatt solar array on a 40-acre parcel that lies at the junction of Route 7 and Greenbush Road in Ferrisburgh.
GroSolar originally proposed the array, now called the GMP MicroGrid-Ferrisburgh Project. If the Public Utilities Commission approves the project the array would be 800 feet west of the state highway at its closest point, be among the state’s largest, and could power the equivalent of about 1,300 homes.
When GMP came aboard this fall it also added a Tesla battery “micro-grid” to the plan, one that company officials said can store eight megawatt hours of power. GMP spokesperson Kristin Carlson said the battery installation would be similar to the one that GMP is proposing to add to its already built 4.99-megawatt array in Panton.
According to GMP’s Oct. 17 notice of intent to file for its Certificate of Public Good (CPG) the array’s solar power will charge the battery storage system to be discharged during peak demand hours, thus helping to “drive down costs for customers.”
Carlson said that after GMP was invited by groSolar it did not take long for the power company to sign onto the array, which could be built by early 2019 and would by owned by GMP and installed and maintained by groSolar — which has offices in White River Junction, Rutland and Maryland.
“GroSolar brought the solar project to GMP, which we evaluated and felt this was a good project for our customers and also a good opportunity to include battery storage,” Carlson said.
As part of a memorandum signed by groSolar and the Ferrisburgh selectboard, groSolar and GMP will also build and maintain a small, 15-kilowatt array for the town. Selectboard Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence said the board has made no decision on where that array might go, but it could be sited near the town’s office building, garage or fire station.
Lawrence said the board backs a project that GMP said will add to Ferrisburgh’s tax base — two years ago GMP told the Panton selectboard its array there could generate about $45,000 of annual property taxes.
“We support it, absolutely,” Lawrence said.
The site is to the rear of a parcel, owned by Clifford Harris, on Greenbush Road’s west side, and will be accessed by an existing farm road. Most recently the bulk of the land to be used for the array was either mowed for hay or planted with corn, according to GMP.
Lawrence said because of extensive natural screening and additional landscaping — including a proposed “30-foot-wide hedgerow of native species,” according to selectboard minutes — it would barely be visible from Route 7.
“You’re not even going to notice it,” she said.
For its preliminary filing with the utilities commission, GMP hired the SE Group to evaluate the array’s visual impact on the area.
SE Group, which will prepare a more detailed report for GMP’s CPG application, concluded the array would have “limited potential public visibility … Views of the project are most likely near the intersection of Greenbush Road, Route 7 and Robinson Road. As noted before, any visibility from this location would have to consider the considerable setback (almost 1,000 feet) between observers and the initial row of panels comprising the array.”
The array itself would consist about 20,000 10-foot-tall, single-axis solar trackers. They would be arranged in two groups with the trackers facing south. The companies also pledge to use a pollinator-friendly seed mix at the array site.
According to GMP, the project should produce about 9,250 megawatt hours of energy annually, and it fits in with the company’s larger goals.
“The project is part of GMP’s efforts to transform our energy landscape away from a centralized regional bulk grid to one that is more home-, business-, and community-based,” Carlson said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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