Greenbacker reports on progress of solar project at closed landfill
BRATTLEBORO — Two years after start-up of the 5.73 megawatt solar array at the Windham Solid Waste Management District's closed landfill, the facility is providing clean energy to 17 subscribers, including the towns of Brattleboro, Dummerston, Halifax, Newfane, Readsboro, Vernon, Wardsboro, and Wilmington; the following schools: Brattleboro Union High School, Dummerston, Guilford, Putney, and Vernon; Landmark College and Marlboro College; as well as the Brattleboro Retreat, and Windham Solid Waste Management District.
The solar array is the largest net-metering project in Vermont and was purchased by Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company in the fall of 2019 from the previous owner, Sky Solar.
The 16,000 solar panels sit on top of 25 acres of capped landfill, a brownfield site that cannot be used for many other purposes. The solar array offers subscribers the ability to participate in creating clean energy while saving substantially on their power bill. The facility resulted in cost savings to the subscribers of an estimated $470,000 in 2019. In addition to cost savings, in 2019, the site saved 4,799 metric tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to 1,037 passenger vehicles driven for one year.
Since Greenbacker purchased the project, multiple maintenance repairs have been performed, including measures to increase safety and system production. Greenbacker has hired local contractors for improvements. Electrical repairs have been performed by RAK Solar Services of Norwich, which has multiple locations in the state. Additional repairs are scheduled to improve the overall "health" of the system.
Improvements to the stormwater drainage system have been performed by Jason Evans Construction of Dummerston. Mowing and trimming of vegetation is being managed by E&S Electrical Company of Williamstown, and Greenbacker recently contracted with Sanborn Head Engineering of Burlington to conduct mandatory annual inspections of the stormwater system, and the landfill cap, and submit reports to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
"With the passage of Vermont Act 99 in 2014, the Vermont legislature encouraged exactly this type of solar array siting," said Michelle Cherrier, chair of Windham Solid Waste Management District (WSWMD). "Act 99 provided the district with a unique opportunity to utilize an undevelopable piece of property while securing meaningful cost savings for multiple public sector entities in our region."
The solar array, owned and managed by Greenbacker, is part of Vermont's industry-leading group net-metering program. The public sector customers are receiving net metering credits on electric bills for specified meters at a significant discount.
They expect to receive significant savings over the 20-year contract period. In addition, WSWMD is receiving $122,000 per year in lease revenue for hosting the project, money that is being used to advance the district's work in recycling and composting of food scraps.
Bob Spencer, Executive Director of WSWMD, said "this project took five years to develop, but is proving to be a significant revenue generator for WSWMD, allowing us to purchase equipment to expand our food scrap composting facility into the second largest in Vermont."
Vermont is a leader in renewable energy and the Brattleboro project is just one of several assets Greenbacker owns and manages in the state, focused on providing low-cost, clean power to non-profits, hospitals, schools and municipalities.
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