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Ferrisburgh rewarded with donation of solar array

FERRISBURGH — One of three sites in Ferrisburgh could be the home of a 15-kilowatt solar array that a solar firm has offered to the town. The sites under consideration are the Ferrisburgh fire station, town-owned land next to town offices, and the parcel at the junction of Routes 7 and 22A
White River Junction firm groSolar will donate that array, which the Ferrisburgh selectboard last week said could cover between one-quarter to one-half of an acre. 
The donation comes as a gesture of good will after the town supported groSolar and Green Mountain Power’s joint Public Utilities Commission application for  a Certificate of Public Good for a 4.99-megawatt array planned for the intersection of Greenbush Road and Route 7.
When GMP came aboard last fall it also added a Tesla battery “micro-grid” to the plan, one that company officials said can store eight megawatt hours of power and is similar to that being installed in Panton.
Ferrisburgh selectboard Chairman Rick Ebel on Thursday said groSolar typically also makes the offer of a smaller solar array to towns in which the firm successfully does business, “because there’s a lot they have to do around permitting, particularly at the state level, just to pave the way and garner support in towns.”
Ebel said the board was impressed when groSolar made its presentation at the site, particularly with use of topography and plantings to minimize its visual impact.
“GroSolar is a company that does a really good job with siting and plantings,” he said.
Ebel echoed a comment at the Sept. 18 selectboard meeting from resident and real estate broker Carl Cole, who works with groSolar on array siting.
“As Carl said, the driver shouldn’t be able to see it heading north on Route 7 if they’re paying attention to the road,” Ebel said.
The board agreed to accept the array and not a $40,000 cash payment.
“We do want to look at an installation,” Ebel said.
A site to the rear of the Route 7 fire station lot, suggested by Selectman Red Muir, met with what may have been the best reception at the Sept. 18 meeting.
The board decided to ask groSolar representative Lincoln Lande to evaluate the fire station lot and stake out where an array of that size could be placed, thus allowing board members to get a sense of how it would look to neighbors and the traveling public.
Selectman Steve Gutowski asked his colleagues not to rule out the property right next to and south of town offices, which consists of a home and a lot. Ebel said later last week the board would not rule it out even though the fact the property is rented could pose complications.
“I might have Lincoln look at that one, too, and show us what it would look like,” he said. “The town does own the land, but there is someone living there.”
Cole said he would prefer a less prominent site for aesthetic reasons, and that the location next to town hall should be reserved for future town use. But Gutowski noted that solar arrays are not permanent, with a typical life of 25 years, and expansion potential would be preserved.
Cole agreed with the board that the north end of the town-owned 34.91-acre parcel at the junction of Routes 7 and 22A could be a good site, although not the cheapest to develop because it would be difficult to bring three-phase power to it. He said he believed the Vermont Land Trust, which oversees conservation easements on the parcel, might agree to sign off on a solar array that benefitted a property owner such as the town.
Ebel said there is no specific timetable for a decision.

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