BRATTLEBORO — Companies from around the world are collaborating on what is being dubbed the largest net-metering solar project in Vermont.
"It's a big project," said Bob Spencer, Windham Solid Waste Management District executive director, estimating the total cost will be between $10 million and $12 million.
China-based Sky Solar Holdings, which leases the property from the district, hired Encore Renewable Energy in Burlington to help put together the certificate of public good application to submit to the Vermont Public Utilities Commission and sign customers up for the net-metering credits.
Sky also subcontracted with Gransolar, or GRS of Spain, for engineering, procurement and construction. Spencer said two full-time employees of Gransolar are living locally for the duration of the project.
Concord, N.H.-based Sanborn, Head & Associates — "landfill specialists," as Spencer calls the firm — developed a site plan. Solar panels will come from Game Change of New York City.
Hearing about pending tariffs on solar equipment before President Donald Trump approved them last month, Spencer wondered whether the project would still happen. Then he was introduced to a team from Gransolar and construction began about a month ago.
About 16,000 solar panels are slated to come to the capped landfill that closed about 23 years ago. The array will cover a majority of the 25 acres.
Municipalities and schools in district member towns had first dibs on net-metering credits generated from the approximately 5-megawatt array. The credits go toward Green Mountain Power bills and are purchased at a discounted rate.
With 25.3 percent of the credits, the town of Brattleboro is the biggest "off-taker" in the project. Brattleboro Union High School will take 20.2 percent, the Brattleboro Retreat will take 19.2 percent, Landmark College will take 11.5 percent, Marlboro College will take 8.9 percent, the town of Wilmington will take 2.8 percent ,and Vernon Elementary School will take 2 percent. Groups taking smaller percentages include Putney Elementary, the town of Readsboro, Dummerston Elementary, Guilford Elementary, the town of Vernon, Brattleboro Organic Energy, WSWMD, and the towns of Dummerston, Halifax, Newfane and Wardsboro.
On Tuesday, Green Mountain Power brought poles to create new service lines that will put solar power into the grid. Spencer showed the Reformer permanent and temporary roads built on the landfill for the project.
No excavation is planned.
"It's important because we have a cap and we don't want moisture getting into the cap," said Spencer, referring to technology meant to protect humans and the environment from harmful effects of contaminants.
Jason Evans, owner of Dummerston-based Evans Construction, said his team completed the roads within a week. With no huge snowstorms, he called the weather "ideal" for doing surface work.
Truck operators had to be mindful of more than 40 methane wells. Spencer said crews will need to work around them as they install the equipment and make sure they can be accessed.
"It's a pretty complicated project in that sense," he said.
To satisfy runoff and erosion concerns, berms were built and compost-filter socks were installed around the site. That is a condition of the site's state stormwater permit amended for the project.
Spencer expects a significant revenue boost for the district from selling compost to Evans for growing grass. Vegetation also is part of the stormwater plan.
Solar panels will be attached to 2,980 tubs on the property, Evans said, and each will be filled with about a third of a yard of concrete.
Spencer applauded the progress so far.
"We're pleased with Gransolar and Evans Construction," he said. "Their work has been really good."
The array is expected to be up and running before the end of June, according to the CPG. Spencer expects to see a "busy construction site" in April and May.
"There could be 100 workers out here," he said.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.