BRATTLEBORO -- A local company has been chosen to lead the construction of the 2-megawatt solar array that developers hope to install off of Technology Drive in Brattleboro.
Integrated Solar will partner with REC Solar, a national alternative energy financing and wholesale company, on the solar photovoltaic project slated for land along Interstate 91.
Winstanley Enterprises owns the land and is leading the project.
"This system will provide enough power to bring clean electricity to meet 9 percent of Brattleboro's annual energy needs and 40 percent during peak hours, while fueling local construction jobs," said Integrated Solar president and owner Andy Cay.
REC will help with the bonding and also help purchase the panels. The company has helped build more than 11,000 residential and commercial solar systems across the country
"This project will play a critical role in helping Vermont reach its ambitious renewable energy goals," said Cary Hayes, director of business development for REC Solar. "We're honored to have been selected to develop the system, and we're looking forward to working with a strong and experienced local partner, Integrated Solar, to get it done."
Dan Ingold, the project's senior technical director, said Winstanley hopes to hold at least one public information meeting before workers begin installing the solar array in the spring. Winstanley wants to install about 8,300 solar panels on 1,040 posts on the parcel of land along the Interstate.
If the project is built it will be one of the largest solar installations in the state.
Winstanley asked the Public Service Board for a Certificate of Public Good under the state's expedited 248(j) permitting process because the company wanted to take advantage of a federal accelerated depreciation schedule that expires at the end of this year.
Winstanley's request to proceed under the accelerated permitting process, which is generally used to consider smaller projects, ended up taking more time to process. Last week the PSB agreed to consider the petition under the 248 (j) schedule, which does not require any public or technical hearings. The PSB still has to rule on the project and issue a Certificate of Public Good before construction can begin.
Ingold said the developers still want to encourage public input as contractors lay out the plans for the solar array.
"We can't have a hearing, because that's the Public Service Board's purview," Ingold said Tuesday. "But we are open to having a meeting and presenting to the public, especially the planning and town officials, anything they want to go over with us. We want this to be as transparent as possible."
Ingold is going to work with the Windham Regional Commission and the town to try to set up a public meeting probably some time in the new month or two.
He said construction could start in April and probably go into August.
With the PSB's decision to proceed under the expedited process, Ingold said developers are meeting with state agencies, including the Agency of Natural Resources, Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets and the Department of Public Service to address any concerns that the state might have with the project.
Ingold said Winstanley wants to get memorandums of understanding with the state agencies which will become a part of the final petition for the certificate of public good.
The Agency of Agriculture is concerned about the top soil on the site, though Ingold said recent tests show that the land there is not high quality agricultural soil.
The land there was a farm, according to Ingold, but when the parcel was sold in the 1980s topsoil was removed and sold.
There have also been issues raised about adverse aesthetic impacts, and Ingold said the company is still figuring out how it wants to shield and protect the solar panels. A fence will have to go up for security reasons, Ingold said, but options range from a chain link fence to an agricultural fence. There are also split opinions on if the solar panels should be hidden from view, or promoted as a welcome to the state and to Vermont's commitment to alternative energy.
Ingold said that is one of the issues that could be addressed at a public meeting.
"If we had an inordinate amount of public comment, we would probably deliver that to the Public Service Board when they put together their final conditions," Ingold said.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.