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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Growing a Community Solar Farm

Green Mtn. Community Solar in Groton, VT

Local high school and college students who helped build the project are, left to right, Natalie Page, Rowan Johnston-McWilliams, Zac Bergh, Tiernan Johnston-McWilliams, Hector Soveren, Jake LaVaude, Caleb Genereaux and Eli LaVaude.

Local high school and college students who helped build the project are, left to right, Natalie Page, Rowan Johnston-McWilliams, Zac Bergh, Tiernan Johnston-McWilliams, Hector Soveren, Jake LaVaude, Caleb Genereaux and Eli LaVaude.

Thirteen Vermont families, Wells River Savings Bank and Catamount Film and Arts have collaborated with Green Mountain Community Solar (GMCS) on an off-site community solar array in Groton, Vermont. The 140-kW Groton Community Solar Farm was completed and put online in December, generating power and producing net-metering credits. Electric generating from the farm reduces the electric bills of its subscribers in proportion to their investment, and produces credits instead. The solar farm is located in Green Mountain Power service territory, through which it is net-metered.

Construction was completed over a period of eleven days in December. Vermont contractors, local high school and college students, and other local residents all teamed up with lead installation contractor, Soveren Solar of Putney, Vermont.

The project uses 654 Canadian Solar 260-watt (DC) panels. Fixed mounts hold the panels tipped at a 22º angle to harvest the sun’s power. Seven 20-kW Sunny Tripower 20000 TL-US inverters convert the DC electricity from the panels to AC as required for connection to the grid.

Panels were sold to subscribers for approximately $1,100 each and are expected to yield customers about $60 per year each in savings for 25 years. With federal investment tax credits, the payback period is about 12 years. Project completion in 2014 meant subscribers could claim tax credits for 2014.

Participation of Wells River Savings Bank and Catamount Film and Arts meant GMCS was able to meet initial goals. This was a great help in ensuring the project’s overall success.

Wells River Savings Bank is a commercial subscriber. Bank vice president Graham Gove commented, “The bank is pleased to join this community effort and to have a portion of its electricity generated locally and from renewable sources. Additionally, we find this a good investment for the bank.”

Jody Fried, the executive director of Catamount Film and Arts, added his own comment, saying, “This project, following our renovations and energy audit savings, allows Catamount Arts to control its costs and participate in sound environmental practices right here in the Northeast Kingdom.”

A community solar farm provides those who cannot have solar panels on their roofs or in their yards with a way to have them elsewhere. Jim Wuertele, the town of St. Johnsbury’s energy committee coordinator said, “Here is the perfect solution for those wanting to go solar but can’t do it at their house.” There are subscribers in Weybridge, Norwich, Wilder, Pittsfield, Barnet, Newbury, St. Johnsbury, and Ryegate.

It is important to recognize that while maintaining the quality of the environment means eliminating pollutants, noise, and other physical stresses is vital, it is also important to our well-being that the environment be kept as visually attractive as possible. GMCS works to minimize visual impacts of solar farms by coordinating with towns, Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources and other partners.

Subscribers could arrange financing through their own banks. Since not all banks are prepared to finance solar panels, GMCS has established working relationships with area banks and credit unions to help customers get financing for their panel purchases. In this case, they were working through Green Mountain Credit Union and Vermont State Employees Credit Union. This is part of an overriding commitment to bring the financial and environmental benefits of solar power to the businesses, non-profit organizations, and people of Vermont, even if they have no place of their own to site the panels.

The GMCS website is GMCommunitySolar.com, and the number is 802-526-1191.

 

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