By George Harvey
This year has brought new solar farms to Vermont. Two examples are an array in Shelburne, installed at Meach Cove Farms by groSolar, and one at Rutland, installed by NRG Energy.
Meach Cove Farms has extensive land devoted to certified organic soybeans, hay, wheat, rye, and corn. They also have three acres of wine grapes and 300 acres of productive woodlands. They are very interested in finding more productive ways to use their resources, especially if it reduces dependence on fossil fuels, and groSolar happened to be able to help them in this.
GroSolar is a nation-wide installer of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, specializing in those in the range of one megawatt (MW) to thirty MWdc. The company seeks to be a single source for solar projects, providing financing, installation, operations, and maintenance. The Meach Cove Farm project’s design and solar engineering services were done under the direction of L.W. Seddon, LLC of Montpelier, Vermont.
Meach Cove Farms and groSolar worked closely together to produce this 2.96 MW system on 15 acres at Meach Cove Farms. The system is designed to provide 3,450,000 kilowatt-hours each year, enough for about 385 average homes. Excess power will be sold on the grid under the Vermont Sustainably Priced Energy and Economic Development (SPEED) program.
Solar arrays provide a “crop” of solar electricity, giving farms an income without requiring a lot of attention. Without the use of fossil fuels or chemicals, they are perfectly compatible with organic agriculture. The combination of renewable power with organic farming is becoming more important as more farmers become aware of this.
Also this year, NRG Residential Solar Solutions (NRG) put up a solar garden in Rutland. In this case, the system has a capacity of 150 kilowatts, but it is not providing for a single customer. Instead, its power is ultimately going to fifty households that bought into the system.
The fifty households were able to take their stakes in the project without upfront investment. The financing is applied through the Green Mountain Power (GMP) billing process as part of their electric bills.
Power from the system is initially supplied to GMP, who is a strong supporter of the NRG system in Rutland. Under the net metering system in place in Vermont, the power is credited to the accounts of the fifty households that are involved. If the account has an excess of power produced over what is consumed, the excess can be rolled over to apply to the next month’s bill.
Mary Powell, who is the CEO of GMP, made it clear that she wants the sort of relationship seen between GMP and NRG partnership to be repeated, saying, “We anticipate working together on additional projects in Vermont to further develop solar as a meaningful part of our energy future.”
Rutland’s mayor, Chris Louras, who is also a customer of the community solar project, is also quite pleased with way the project was developed. His comment was, “Whether a person owns their own home, rents their residence, lives in a shady area or cannot afford the upfront capital cost of their own solar array, through this project, they can have solar power and with it, the knowledge that they are helping the environment as they save on their electric bill.”
L. W. Seddon’s website is www.lwseddon.com.