Solar project at Windham Solid Waste Management District gains steam

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BRATTLEBORO >> With new owners announced for the solar array planned for the closed landfill comes optimism around the project.

"We were getting pretty frustrated with Pristine Sun," said Windham Solid Waste Management District Board of Supervisors Chairman Lou Bruso.

The district sent a letter to the San Francisco-based company about delays but soon found out its whole portfolio of projects — about 162 megawatts of solar — was sold to Sky Solar.

The closed and capped landfill in Brattleboro was one of the first projects that Pristine had been working towards getting up and running, said Bruso. The lease for the land now belongs to Sky Solar. Construction is expected to begin next spring.

Pristine had applied for an interconnection agreement through Green Mountain Power last year.

"It had sort of been sitting there on hold but then they (Sky Solar) contacted GMP and reenergized it, and they're back checking our application," said Bruso. "We're a net-metering project and the net-metering rules are going to change beginning on Jan. 1. That's why it was so important for us to get started. Because the new rules aren't going to be anywhere as good for the consumer."

The district has its recycling and waste equipment, offices and facilities on Old Ferry Road in Brattleboro, and it is made up of 19 member towns. Officials will be visiting local select boards in the future to offer net-metering opportunities.

Getting the certificate of public good from the Public Service Board before the end of the year is crucial, said Bruso.

"What that does is get all the permits in place including the amendment for the landfill and a few other permits that need to be acquired," he said. "We applied for a 45-day notice. That letter lets the public know about this project, anyone who has a stake. The town of Brattleboro since it's in Brattleboro or neighbors, this is the 45 days they have the opportunity to let the PSB know they have a question or issue."

A full application for the CPG will be submitted before the end of the year.

Although special wording was put in legislation, that did not exempt the district from going through the regulatory process. Under the law, the district is required to submit the application to the PSB before Dec. 31.

"Prior to that legislation, all net-metering projects had to be under 500 kilowatts," Bruso said. "But the special legislation let a net-metering project happen for 5 megawatts. That's 10 times bigger."

Bruso said a "Plan B" was always part of the plan, however, the district decided to stick with the current lease as it was taken over by Sky Solar. The group is the national company that will finance the project then the Burlington-based Encore Renewables will see the permitting and building stages through completion.

This will be the largest project the company has developed, said Chad Farrell, president of Encore Renewables. A 3.5 mW project in Essex Junction that went to construction was Encore's biggest array so far.

"One of the reasons Sky was interested in partnering with us and the district was able to get comfortable with our team was that we developed the only other large net-metering project on a landfill, a roughly 2 mW on the South Burlington landfill. It's very similar," Farrell said. "The net metering is going to local municipal offtaker customers, the city of South Burlington and the South Burlington School District."

The company expects to receive its CPG for the project in the next few weeks. Like the Brattleboro landfill, several other permits are needed that address stormwater during construction and when the project is operating. Another permit needs to "demonstrate the presence of a solar project that sits on top of the landfill will not compromise the integrity of the cap, said Farrell.

Being one of the finalists when requests for proposals originally went out, Farrell said, was the other reason Encore felt Encore was a good for the project.

Design work and permitting is expected to take between six and eight months.

"We feel we will have all of the permits and interconnection approval from the utility that we need to essentially build the project probably sometime late winter or early spring," said Farrell. "Then the construction process likely will begin in the summer months next summer."

Seasonal considerations will need to be taken, he noted, as the cap could be "saturated with snowmelt and runoff."

Construction is expected to take a total of three months. Electricity should be generated by the site by Sept. 2017, according to Farrell.

"We, at Encore, feel very aligned with this project," he said. "It's uniquely aligned with our mission, which is to provide high-value projects for the communities in which we work, and developing renewable energy projects on otherwise undevelopable land such as a landfill is core to our mission. ANd we understand the value of this particular project for the WSWMD as well as all of its member communities. We understand that it will provide a significant economic benefit for the district as well as the communities which it serves."

Encore started in 2007 and has focused on commercial scale projects since 2009. The company is working on larger scale solar arrays in Stowe and Hyde Park. Two projects are being developed in Bennington. And several net-metering projects are underway in northern Vermont. Also, the company is looking at landfill projects in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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