By Nancy Rae Mallery
Bradford, Vermont, is a small town of 2,797 people, but it is taking big steps toward energy independence. Solar systems are springing up all over the town this summer. There already were some, of course. In October 2009, groSolar installed a 9.6kW solar system on the roof of North Country Organics on Depot Street, meeting 100% of their needs. That was not the first, but now there are many more.
Bradford Public Library
In 1796, Bradford became the first town in Vermont with a chartered library. The Woods Library Building stands at the intersection of US Route 5 and South Main Street, at the center of the south end of the business district. It was designed by Lambert Packard of St. Johnsbury, in his adaptation of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, and finished in 1895.
According to Bud Haas, the library treasurer, this beautiful building has had significant energy improvements and is now powered 100% from the sun, thanks to a program offered by Green Mountain Community Solar (GMCS), as an off-taker. GMCS retained 20% of the panels in a system they installed, and the credits for these panels are applied to accounts of off-takers, which get credits on their electric bills. The library pays GMCS 90% of the standard rate and will be saving $150 yearly, at no expense.
Bruce Genereaux, the owner of GMCS, explained that two “corporate partners” get discounts on their electricity by participating in solar farms. Bradford’s library gets credits from 6kW of solar panels. The other, Little Rivers Health Care, gets credits from 20kW. Neither organization was required to put up any money. The actual panels are part of the 140kW Eddy Road Community Solar Farm, with 780 panels in Chester, Vermont. It went online on July 14, 2015.
Farm-Way is now 100% solar-powered. The all-purpose general store (“Complete Outfitters for Man and Beast”) had groSolar install a 55kW system in 2008 and had been getting 43% of their electricity from it, but that has been expanded. Skip Metayer, VP of Farm-Way told us, “With the additional 77kW, which went on line July 27, 2015, we are now producing 100% of our electricity needs, with enough extra to support a 19,000 square foot addition we are in the middle of adding as well. It will be complete in October 2015.”
Catamount Solar installed the new system. Metayer said, “Two of the owners were with groSolar when groSolar installed my original system. We have used Catamount since the disappearance of groSolar.” Metayer also told us they make energy-efficiency improvements every time they replace antiquated fixtures. The results are significant, especially with some of the old high-bay inside lighting and exterior yard lights; now they are all LEDs, saving hundreds of watts per fixture.
Metayer’s own home is also 100% powered by solar. SunCommon installed their residential system last fall.
Bradford Community Solar Farm
The summer of 2015 also saw the addition of the new Bradford Community Solar Farm. The Saladinos farm on Lake Morey Road has a new “cash crop” on a single acre, with the installation of a 150kW solar system by SunCommon. It will supply power for 28 homes. SunCommon has directed the utility to apportion a share of the array’s output to each Community Solar customer’s power bill. The credits can zero out the utility bill, so the Community Solar members shift their power payments to the solar array – at a 7% discount from the standard utility rate.
Many more Bradford systems
Catamount Solar has installed at least 29kW of solar on residential homes and the elementary school.
GMCS accounts for 6.3kW at the Chester solar farm, with $1,400 expected annual savings.
O’Meara Solar installed a 10.26kW system at a small farm in Bradford. It has 36 SolarWorld modules, two SMA inverters, a Midnite Solar rapid shutdown system, and a secure power supply outlet for up to 1500W of solar power when the grid is down.
SunCommon has installed solar on five residences for a total of 35kW.
Real Goods Solar has installed solar at three homes, which should offset more than 478 tons of CO2 over 25 years.
Finally, we want to mention that Bradford is the home of Green Energy Times, which has been 100% solar powered for 15 years. We are proud to be part of a great town that is preparing for a sustainable, energy independent future.