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GMP Seeks permit for Stafford Hill Solar Farm

RUTLAND, Vt. – Green Mountain Power has applied for a Vermont Public Service Board permit to build the Stafford Hill Solar Farm, a 2.3-megawatt solar farm on the City of Rutland’s long-closed landfill.

The project, to be built off Gleason Road, behind the Stafford Technical Center and Rutland High School and adjacent to the Rutland County Solid Waste District’s Materials Recycling Facility, is part of Green Mountain Power’s effort to make Rutland the Solar Capital of New England.

“Stafford Hill would be the first solar project in Vermont to repurpose a dormant landfill, and a substantial step forward in our efforts to make Rutland the leading solar development center in New England,” said GMP President and CEO Mary Powell.  “There are not only tremendous renewable energy benefits, but substantial benefits for our customers and the state of Vermont in finding ways to make productive uses out of landfills and other brownfields, which would otherwise present only liabilities.”

Under the proposal now before the PSB, GMP would lease the former landfill from the City of Rutland for 25 years, with a 25-year option, for $30,600 per year. GMP expects to put the project out to bid later this summer, and pending PSB review, which could take up to nine months, hopes to build the project in 2014.  In peak sunlight, the project could supply enough energy to power about 2,300 typical homes.

“Stafford Hill will benefit the city as well as our long-term state energy goals, which include 90 percent of our electricity coming from renewable sources by 2050,” Powell said.  “It creates a productive use of long-fallow land, provides an income to the city, and generates clean, renewable energy for our customers in line with state energy policy and goals.”

GMP worked with Sanborn, Head and Associates, which has significant experience with solar projects on landfills, to design the project.  The company considered an even larger project, up to 3 megawatts, but decided on the 2.3-MW proposal because it would limit fill required to level parts of the landfill.

“We have been very careful to ensure the project meets the city’s expectations while maximizing the production at the site,” said Steve Costello, GMP’s vice president for generation and energy innovation.  “We are hopeful that the project will provide a blueprint for developing similar sites across the state that could provide additional benefits to Vermont.”

The project, which will cover about 9 acres, includes 7,800 solar panels arranged in collectors in 72 rows.

Mayor Chris Louras lauded the design, which he said made good use of the space.  “After more than two decades of lying fallow, the site will provide the city with an income stream and create clean energy that will help put Rutland on the renewable energy map,” Louras said.  “It’s an innovative project.”

Stafford Hill, named for the Stafford Technical Center and Former U.S. Senator Robert Stafford, was named for the local icons in keeping with GMP’s plan to name its local solar farms after positive attributes of the community.  Sen. Stafford is considered to be one of the Senate’s top all-time environmentalists, and Stafford Tech has been a solid partner on multiple GMP projects.  Stafford Hill is part of GMP’s plan to create and inspire construction of enough solar to provide Rutland with the highest installed solar per capita of any city in the northeast.

“We are well on our way toward reaching that goal, and continue to explore ways to push well beyond it,” Powell said.

In addition to the Solar Capital effort, GMP is building a new Energy Innovation Center in the former Eastman’s Building, where the company expects to develop new generation and pilot new customer programs, efficiency ideas and educational opportunities for students and customers statewide. GMP is also recruiting new businesses such as Small Dog Electronics and NRG Residential Solar to locate in Rutland.  Vermont Energy Investment Corp. and NeighborWorks of Western Vermont plan to co-locate some staff at the EIC when it opens this fall.

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