BRATTLEBORO -- It's no small task to build a large-scale solar-power project on a former landfill.
That's why Windham Solid Waste Management District is seeking a consultant in that highly specialized field -- someone to help district administrators solicit and then choose a developer for a new Brattleboro solar facility that could reach 5 megawatts of power output.
If all goes well, officials are hoping to find that developer by year's end, allowing a project that has been in the works for years to finally move forward.
"This is really a great opportunity for the district," said Bob Spencer, Windham Solid Waste's executive director.
Comprised of 19 member towns, Windham Solid Waste provides recycling management and disposal services from its Old Ferry Road headquarters. The district also maintains a capped landfill that operated at that site from 1982 to 1995.
That is where district administrators see a solar-power opportunity. Last year, the district was approached with a solar proposal, but the timing of the project -- and the size constraints on net-metered solar projects -- didn't work for Windham Solid Waste.
That changed, however, when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Vermont's newly expanded net-metering law on April 1. The statute encourages more small-scale solar development statewide, and it also contains language specifically allowing a solar facility of up to 5 megawatts to be constructed "on a closed landfill in Windham County and treated as a net-metering system."
That language was inserted by Windham County state Sen. Peter Galbraith, a Townshend Democrat who said he supported such a project at Windham Solid Waste.
The plan is for a pilot project in which district administrators would commission a privately funded, privately constructed solar-power facility on the former landfill.
Once the facility is up and running, it could have significant financial benefits: Both the district and its member towns could receive net-metering credits on utility bills, and the district also would see revenue from leasing land to the solar developer.
But getting such a project under way is a daunting task. That's why Windham Solid Waste administrators are advertising for a consultant -- known as an "owner's representative" -- to guide them.
The technical adviser "shall demonstrate experience and expertise necessary to lead the district into the pre-construction phase of a large-scale solar-electric project," according to a detailed request prepared by Windham Solid Waste.
The consultant's long list of duties include establishing goals, identifying benefits and outlining options for financing and revenue-sharing. The consultant would develop a request for proposals that would be used to advertise for developers, and then help the district in evaluating and selecting the right developer, Spencer said.
Also required is the ability to "track federal, state and local tax regulations to assure project is in compliance, and any available incentives or grants," Windham Solid Waste's proposal says. And the adviser would "work the district to delineate roles and responsibilities including permitting ... engineering assessment, operations and maintenance, amendment of landfill post-closure plan, compliance with (state) landfill post-closure use requirements, performance guarantees and decommissioning."
"It's very complex," Spencer said. "I don't have that expertise, and our board doesn't."
He added that district administrators are "being very protective of our landfill cap, and we want to make sure this is done right."
Windham Solid Waste's detailed request for a consultant is available by contacting Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Spencer said he has been advertising in local and regional media as well as through Renewable Energy Vermont.
"I've been getting a lot of interest," he said.
Bids are due July 10 and will be opened that same night by the district's executive board. A timeline distributed by the district says a consultant will be chosen by mid-September.
By late November, that timeline shows, officials expect to begin advertising for solar developers. Under the state's net-metering law, the district has until Dec. 31, 2016, to apply for a certificate of public good for the project from the Vermont Public Service Board.
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.