District picks landfill-solar adviser


BRATTLEBORO -- The caretakers of Brattleboro’s closed, capped landfill now have an ally in the quest to build a large-scale solar array on that site.

Windham Solid Waste Management District has hired an Ohio company that will help find a developer to construct a photovoltaic facility that could generate up to 5 megawatts of power.

Hull & Associates Inc. of Dublin, Ohio, is expected to provide technical guidance necessary to navigate complex regulations that govern landfill construction and solar development.

"I don’t have the expertise, and no one on our board does, in this world of solar and landfills," said Bob Spencer, the district’s executive director. "It’s quite technical, and there are a number of ways to approach it. We felt we needed outside expertise."

Windham Solid Waste is based on Old Ferry Road and provides recycling management and disposal services. The district, which is supported by 19 member towns, also manages a capped landfill that operated on the property from 1982 to 1995.

District administrators have been discussing the possibility of building a solar array on the landfill. But the idea became much more feasible earlier this year, when Vermont’s newly expanded net-metering law included language 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."

The language was inserted by Windham County state Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Townshend, and the law allowed officials to move forward with a pilot project in which a privately funded, privately constructed solar-power facility could be built on the landfill.

There would be financial benefits available both for the district and for its member towns, which could receive net-metering credits on utility bills. The district also would receive revenue by leasing land to the solar developer.

In June, the district advertised for technical help -- technically, the job title is "owner’s representative" -- to get the project under way. There were four proposals submitted, and officials interviewed two firms before awarding the job to Hull & Associates.

"It turns out this company has very excellent references. They had extensive experience in financing these projects," Spencer said. "They also have done solar projects on landfills in Ohio. They have a lot of depth of experience in areas that are very important to this."

In a written proposal sent to Windham Solid Waste, Hull administrators said they are "uniquely qualified to manage renewable-energy projects from concept through operation."

The company also has "provided waste-management solutions for over 30 years" and has been "directly involved in two solar projects on landfills" -- one in Toledo, Ohio, and another in Bedford, Ohio.

"In addition to its direct experience as a solar-project developer, Hull has assisted others to develop renewable energy projects," company administrators wrote, adding that Hull has reviewed two Vermont laws governing "self-generation and net metering."

"Both laws are similar to Ohio’s legislation and are in line with our experience and capabilities," the proposal says.

Spencer said Hull’s assistance at Windham Solid Waste will happen in two phases. First, the company will write a request for proposals from solar developers and identify potential recipients of that request.

For that job, Hull will charge a flat fee of $5,000. Among the other consultants who sought to assist Windham Solid Waste, the next-lowest cost for that first phase was $15,000, Spencer said.

The second phase of Hull’s work will involve reviewing proposals from solar developers and assisting the district in selecting the right company for the job. That work will be done on an hourly basis, and Windham Solid Waste will set a cap on that expenditure when finalizing its contract with Hull, Spencer said.

It is expected that Windham Solid Waste will pay for the Hull contract through its landfill post-closure fund, from which district administrators have been spending less than expected to maintain the former landfill. There is more than $800,000 in that fund currently, Spencer said.

"We have excess funds ... and this is a landfill project," he said.

The goal is to issue a request for proposals for solar developers in October and host site visits for some of those potential developers the following month. If all goes well, Spencer said, Windham Solid Waste will choose a solar developer by year’s end.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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