Middlebury South Ridge solar farm eyed for expansion

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard last week gave a tentative nod to a proposed 500-kilowatt solar project that would be nestled between two existing solar farms of identical size within the South Ridge planned unit development off Meadow Glen Road.
The selectboard won’t make its endorsement official, however, until the planning commission and the public weigh in on the plan that is being pitched by Middle Road Ventures LLC. Officials have set a Tuesday, May 8, public hearing on the proposal.
It should also be noted that Charlie Kireker, managing partner at Middle Road Ventures, is not merely seeking the town’s blessing on “Phase III” of the South Ridge solar project. He’s also asking the board to support the facility as a “Category III Preferred Site Designation,” per the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s (PUC) Rule 5.100.
Rule 5.100, which took effect on July 1, 2017, offers favorable terms to net-metering projects that meet specific “preferred site” criteria. Those who apply for such a designation must include, in their materials, “a joint letter of support from the municipal legislative body and municipal and regional planning commissions in the community where the net-metering system will be located.”
The new solar arrays would be installed between two pre-existing, 500-kW solar farms located on land adjacent to the Residence at Otter Creek retirement community. The topography of the land is such that solar panels are largely hidden from public view. Kireker, a Weybridge resident and long-time Middlebury businessman, said Dr. Mike Kiernan of the Middlebury-area company “Bee The Change” would plant flowers and shrubs throughout the solar site that would attract pollinators.
“Instead of just farming the sun for energy, we’re also creating the conditions that nurture bees,” Kireker said at the April 10 Middlebury selectboard meeting.
Kireker wants to build Phase III of the South Ridge solar project before the end of this year, though he concedes it could be 2019 before he receives the required permission. He’s hoping that permission will include the ability to access “Phase III” through one of the two existing roads that serve Phases I and II. Current state rules require solar farms to have their own, independent infrastructure.
“We don’t have an option to build a third (access) road, and what’s the point?” Kireker said. “We will make a case to the PUC to allow more than one 500kW project to be served by the same road.”
State officials are banking that Rule 5.100 will encourage communities to identify sites deemed suitable for future renewable energy projects. Ross Conrad, chairman of the Middlebury Energy Committee, said the town could include such a preferred-sites list in its updated energy plan. This would free the selectboard from having to weigh in on solar projects individually.
In other action this past Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard:
•  Accepted a slate of candidates for an array of appointed commissions, boards and other civic offices. Board members said they were thrilled to see a lot of people volunteer this year for vacancies. In most cases, a candidate has stepped forward for each vacancy on such panels as the Design Advisory Committee, the Development Review Board and the Downtown Improvement District Board. In a couple of cases, there are more candidates than positions available, which will force the selectboard to make some tough choices. For example, Ted Davis, Karl Neuse, Ross Conrad, Larry Bailey and Ashley Laux have stepped forward for three available one-year spots representing Middlebury on the Addison County Regional Planning Commission.
The selectboard is scheduled to vote on the slate of candidates at its next meeting, April 24.
•  Approved the proposed transfer of a 25-acre parcel off Dragon Brook Road from the Arlington, Va.-based Conservation Fund to the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF).
Chris Mattrick, United States Forest Service ranger for the Rochester/Middlebury district of the GMNF, also updated the selectboard on its now-vacant administrative offices at 1007 Route 7 south. He said the USFS is seeking funding to proceed with an auction, or outright sale, of the Middlebury property, which includes seven buildings of varying sizes on roughly 3.9-acres. Mattrick hopes that sale can occur this summer.
Plans call for the USFS to eventually maintain a part-time presence at the Addison County Chamber of Commerce headquarters on Court Street. That worker would continue to process firewood permits, Christmas tree permits and provide visitor information. In the meantime, the USFS is scheduling service at the Chamber offices by appointment, according to Mattrick.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

Share this story:

More News
Sports Uncategorized

MAV girls’ lax nets two triumphs

The Mount Abraham-Vergennes cooperative girls’ lacrosse team moved over .500 with a pair o … (read more)

Op/Ed Uncategorized

Hector Vila: The boundaries of education

There is a wide boundary between the teacher and the student, found most profoundly in col … (read more)

Naylor & Breen Uncategorized

Naylor & Breen Request for Proposals

Naylor and Breen 042524 2×4.5 OCCC RFP

Share this story: