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Two Local Businesses Cooperate for Solar

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Danforth Pewter’s and Gardener’s Supply Company’s 144 kW solar array

Danforth Pewter and Gardener’s Supply Company, a nationally known businesses based in Vermont, has partnered on a solar system for emission-free power. Danforth Pewter, a family business producing fine pewter work, is located in Middlebury Middlebury with stores in Burlington, Woodstock and Waterbury. Gardener’s Supply, an employee-owned business providing environmentally friendly gardening products, has its headquarters in Burlington. They have cooperated on a new solar array on the Pulling Farm in Addison.

The 144 kilowatt (kW) system consists of SunPower 345-watt photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on dual axis AllSun Trackers supplied by AllEarth Renewables of Williston, Vermont. The tracking mounts follow the sun, so the panels get greatest exposure as the sun moves across the sky. This means that the panels will provide optimal performance for the location where they are installed.

Because the system is optimized, it should produce 36% more energy than fixed-tilt PVs mounted on racks. A test of the tracking system got 1660 kWh of electricity per kW of PV panels, over the course of a year.

The electricity from the system is supplied through a power purchase agreement with SolarSense, LLC. The system operates through Green Mountain Power’s net metering program, so Danforth Pewter and Gardener’s Supply will be getting electricity at below market rates through the contract with SolarSense. SolarSense is also undertaking to support a child in the Vermont Make-A-Wish Foundation as part of their “Watts for Wishes” charity program.

Fred and Judi Danforth, owners of Danforth Pewter. Photo courtesy of Anjanette Lemak, Designer at Danforth Pewter.

Fred and Judi Danforth, owners of Danforth Pewter. Photo courtesy of Anjanette Lemak, Designer at Danforth Pewter.

Chris Fraga, founder and CEO of SolarSense, LLC, commented on the project, “This is a win through and through for Vermont and the stakeholders in the project.” He stressed the fact that a number of suppliers and service partners were Vermont companies. In addition, the Vermont Economic Development Authority provided debt financing, and Green Mountain Power provided interconnects as part of their work to make Vermont a leader in Sustainable Energy. He added, “This project epitomizes our mission of socially conscious energy development, and we could not be more honored to be part of this initiative.”

Bram Kleppner, CEO of Danforth Pewter, said, “AllEarth Renewables and SolarSense made it really easy for Danforth to become, as far as we know, the world’s first solar-powered pewter workshop. We have been working on reducing our impact on the environment for a long time, and the creation of this solar farm allowed us to wipe out most of our electric energy carbon emissions in one fell swoop.  Since the solar project is sited on land owned by one of our employees, this project really hit a sweet spot: Danforth gets reduced electricity costs, the employee who’s hosting the installation reduces her power bills more or less to zero, and the atmosphere stays a little cleaner. The fact that we’re partnering with our friends at Gardener’s Supply as we both convert our businesses to renewable energy just makes it that much sweeter.”

Jim Feinson, president of Gardener’s Supply Company , said “The employee owners of Gardener’s Supply could not be more pleased to partner with Danforth Pewter, AllEarth Renewables and SolarSense to develop 100% renewable solar energy to power our Williston garden center. Gardeners are truly America’s backyard environmentalists, improving the world one garden at a time. They also have a very intimate relationship with the sun!  Now Gardener’s Supply can say we are improving our own ‘backyard,’ and every garden center customer can feel even better shopping with us knowing the substantial electrical energy needed for our greenhouses and store is coming from solar.”

David Blittersdorf, president and CEO of AllEarth Renewables, said, “We are thrilled to partner with SolarSense to provide locally-produced solar power for two iconic Vermont companies. Both Danforth Pewter and Gardener’s Supply have strong national reputations and their decision to go solar sends a strong message about the economic and environmental benefits of business-led renewable energy leadership. By utilizing our tracking technology with high efficiency SunPower modules, we can maximize production, boosting the total solar savings for Danforth Pewter and Gardener’s Supply and the economic returns for each project.  It’s a real winning combination.”

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