Shoreham solar project ready to move forward

MIDDLEBURY — A local, community–owned solar photovoltaic project, under development by the Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op of Middlebury since 2015, is moving forward again.
The proposed project, Acorn Energy Solar 2 (AES2), is a 150 kW solar array occupying just over 1 acre of land at 869 Watch Point Road in Shoreham. Consisting of 612 solar panels rated at 340 Watts each, the group net metered project is expected to generate about 249,000 kW annually, enough electricity to power about 30 to 40 homes.
The Energy Co-op originally filed for a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for the project in November of 2015, but the application, along with applications for dozens of projects around the state by other developers, encountered delays due to the fact that Green Mountain Power had reached its statutory 15 percent renewables cap. Most of these “above the cap” applications, including AES2’s, were placed on a waiting list.
In June of 2016, after a protracted regulatory process, the AES2 application was eventually “dismissed without prejudice,” meaning that the Energy Co-op could resubmit it at a later date under a new set of rules and regulations, PUC Rule 5.100 for net metered projects, which went into effect on July 1, 2017. While this new rule made the site location and CPG application process more involved, time-consuming and expensive, it offered the opportunity to proceed with plans for AES2 on the Shoreham site.
“We felt that the Shoreham site was especially attractive since it had three-phase power available, was located hundreds of feet away from a lightly traveled town road, was fairly well screened by houses, trees, vegetation, barns and other outbuildings along that road, and would have a minimal visual impact from most public vantage points in the neighborhood,” says Rich Carpenter, the Acorn Energy Co-op’s treasurer and board member.
The project had also received the support of the Shoreham Planning Commission, Shoreham selectboard and Addison County Regional Planning Commission. Consequently, the Energy Co-op resubmitted its CPG application to the Vermont  utilities regulator on Aug. 15, 2017.
The Acorn Energy Co-op has already secured funding for over half of the project costs from Co-operative Insurance Companies of Middlebury. The remaining equity funding will come from individual investors from Shoreham and surrounding communities who will be project participants. These participants will receive net metering dollar credits applied each month to their Green Mountain Power (GMP) electric bills based on the amount of electricity produced the previous month by the number of units (each unit corresponding to one solar panel) they have purchased.
These individual investors must be Vermont residents, have a GMP electric meter and be a member of one of the following groups:
•  Residents of Shoreham.
•  Members of the Acorn Energy Co-op who have paid at least half of the lifetime member fee.
•  Members of the Interfaith Climate Action Network (ICAN).
•  Employees or directors of the Co-operative Insurance Companies.
This individual local investment participation was facilitated by 2014 changes to the Vermont Small Business Offering Exemption (now generally referred to as Vermont Equity Crowdfunding), which is viewed as one of the nation’s most progressive local investing regulations. The Vermont Department of Financial Regulation recently approved the investment offering documentation for AES2, and informational meetings for prospective investors are scheduled for the above-mentioned groups this week:
•  Acorn Energy Co-op members, 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 17, at the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, 14 Seminary St., Middlebury.
•  ICAN, 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 19, at the Weybridge Congregational Church, 2790 Weybridge Road, Weybridge.
•  Residents of Shoreham, 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 19, at the Shoreham Inn.
Six years after the project begins electricity production, the equity structure will “flip” and the individual local investors will take full ownership of the project, making AES2 one of a very small number of truly local, community-owned net-metered solar projects in the state.
After the Energy Co-op resubmitted its CPG application with the regulator in 2017, several adjacent landowners objected. That regulatory and adjudication process is ongoing.
“This project has taken us several years longer than we originally estimated,” says Peter Carothers, the Energy Co-op’s secretary and member of the solar committee. “So the ongoing support from the local community groups and individuals who are eligible to participate, despite the lengthy development process and other delays, is very gratifying. We really appreciate it.”
Organized in 2008, The Acorn Energy Co-op is a member-owned cooperative serving residents and businesses in Addison, Rutland, and Chittenden counties. The Co-op provides education, outreach, products and services, as well as community solar projects that help members make the transition from our present reliance on fossil fuels to greater use of renewables and local solutions. For more information, or to join the Acorn Energy Co-op please contact [email protected], or call 802-385-1911.

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