Future is bright for community solar project


PUTNEY -- The developer of the state's first community solar project says he has about 60 percent of the potential power called for, and he hopes to break ground in the coming weeks, with the solar energy expected to be available this summer.

Nick Ziter, founder of SunFarm Community Solar, says interest has been strong in his community solar project, which will be located behind Santa's Land off of Route 5.

"The response has been great. People seem really excited to be a part of this," Ziter said. "If people live somewhere where they don't get enough sun, and they want to reduce their carbon footprint, this is a good option."

Ziter wants to build a 588-panel solar garden that can produce up to 147 kilowatts of energy.

Customers purchase a panel, or a few panels, and the energy is then fed in to the Green Mountain Power grid, with the solar power offsetting the home's energy use.

Any GMP customer, anywhere in the state, can buy in to Ziter's solar farm.

ZIter is partnering with Clean Energy Collective, a Colorado-based company that has helped develop similar community solar projects.

Since announcing his plan earlier this year, Ziter has changed the model, and customers will now purchase, and then own, the panels.

He originally was going to have customers lease the panels for 20 years, but says the ownership model extends more benefits to the customers.

Clean Energy Collective founder, Jim Hartman, is from Vermont and found out about Ziter's plan.

Clean Energy Collective offers a similar model at its solar projects.

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"It makes much more sense to do it this way," Ziter said. "It gives the customers much more electricity for the same amount of money."

Ziter said under the ownership model, customers stand to reap the benefits of the solar panels for 50 years, or more.

He said customers in his solar project will be able to produce solar energy as if the panels were on their own homes, but his site in Putney has strong solar exposure and offers a better option for homeowners who might not get enough sunlight to install their own panels at home.

Renters can also purchase a panel and the power produced will come off the monthly GMP bill.

Solar panel owners also receive all rebates and tax incentives as if the systems were located on their own roof.

Customers can also retain ownership of the solar panels if they move, as long as they remain in the GMP territory.

The panels cost $813 and customers can also sell the panels if they move.

Ziter said the solar power could become available as early as August.

Ziter explains that developers are saving money by installing so many panels at one time, and customers save money by becoming a part of the community project.

The panels are being installed by Integrated Solar.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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