Letter to the editor: Shoreham array to be community-owned, low-impact
On May 31 the Addison Independent carried a half-page ad on page 11A about good solar vs. bad solar with implications for the solar project currently being developed by Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op in Shoreham. The following letter provides key information about how Acorn Energy has planned and consulted with the residents and planners of Shoreham for the best possible community-owned project.
Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op’s mission is to make solar power affordable and available for all.
The Acorn Energy Co-op (AEC) began in 2008 as a spinoff from the Addison County Relocalization Network (known as ACORN). Our work has been accomplished by a dedicated, all-volunteer board, which has helped co-op members switch to various forms of renewable energy — away from heating oil and electric power generated with fossil fuels.
Our first community solar project, Acorn Energy Solar One (AESO), was targeted at homeowners who could not install solar because of their home’s poor solar exposure and/or could not afford the up-front cost. AESO, a 150 kW array located in Middlebury, went online in December 2011, and has been very successful for all participants. AESO lacks one feature of “true” community solar however — actual ownership of project shares by the folks who receive the net metering credits it generates. As we began to develop plans for a second community solar project, we wanted to make sure that true local participant ownership was part of the legal and financial structure.
Fortunately, a key element of this plan fell into place with the enactment of the Vermont Small Business Offering Exemption (VSBOE) in 2014. This exemption allows Vermont companies or individuals to publicly offer shares in a new enterprise to Vermont residents after review and approval of the offering documents by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation. Using this exemption, AEC plans to offer participant ownership in its second solar project, Acorn Energy Solar 2 (AES2).
In early 2015, we were approached by Shoreham residents who had an unused field in the back of their property. The proposed site is just over one acre in size, with a 3-phase power line running right next to it. The parcel offered a way for us to locate a 150 kW project with low visibility, set back about 500 feet and facing away from Watch Point Road. We were delighted to find such a good site, so we met with neighbors whose houses are closest to the proposed solar array as well as with representatives of the town of Shoreham. We participated in several Shoreham Planning Commission and selectboard meetings and received approval from both as well as from the Addison County Regional Planning Commission. As part of the state approval process (i.e., the Certificate of Public Good application), the Public Service Board sent notification of the proposed project to all abutting land owners, including those with undeveloped land.
After over three years of careful planning and hard work, we look forward to opening up our community solar offering for investor/off-takers living in Shoreham and other nearby communities in Green Mountain Power’s service area. This project, developed by local Vermonters for local Vermont residents, will help Vermont achieve its goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. We believe that this relatively small solar project will become a part of the working Vermont landscape that will not significantly impact the rural, agricultural character or quality of life of the area.
Peter Carothers, Rich Carpenter, Tom Dunne and Greg Pahl
On behalf of the Acorn Energy Co-op Board
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