Mary Mester, Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op Coordinator
Fundraising for an innovative local community-owned solar project in Hinesburg, Vermont under development by the Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op of Middlebury, VT is moving forward. The proposed project, Acorn Energy Solar 4 (AES4), will be a 150-kW solar array on the capped former municipal landfill located at 179 Observatory Road in Hinesburg
On July 20, 2022, the final review of the Vermont Equity Crowdfunding documentation for AES4 was completed by the State for the public offering of shares in the project. This review allows Acorn Energy Co-op to begin marketing shares in the project to Vermont residents, businesses, and non-profit organizations with an electric meter in the Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC) service territory. These investors will receive the project’s net metered credits on their VEC bills, and ultimately take ownership of the project.
“Because we have developed this project in connection with the host community, we have been able to combine local investment, ownership, and management of a solar array in a manner that makes the most of a brownfields redevelopment opportunity,” said Acorn Energy Co-op President Benjamin Marks. “We hope that the installed price per Watt of the array will also be attractive for prospective participants.”
The Hinesburg landfill is ideal for solar development since it has good solar exposure to the south. In addition, this type of brownfield site receives favorable treatment from Vermont’s energy permitting and approval agencies. Acorn Energy Co-op applied for a Certificate of Public Good for the project from the Public Utility Commission which was issued by the Commission on July 6, 2021.
Acorn Energy Co-op, and Aegis Renewable Energy of Waitsfield, VT (Acorn Energy’s contractor), have developed the plan for the approximately $602,545 Hinesburg project. The project’s design calls for 360 solar panels, 540 watts each, which will cover a little over one acre of the capped Hinesburg landfill site.
The Acorn Energy Co-op’s innovative investment model calls for two initial categories of investors in AES4: a single Series A Member and multiple Series B Members. Union Mutual Insurance Company of Montpelier will be the Series A investor. The Series A investor will provide approximately 29% of the capital to construct the project and in return will receive federal tax credits for their project participation. Their involvement helps to keep the costs down for the Series B investors.
The remaining equity funding will come from the Series B investors (Vermont residents, businesses, churches, and organizations with an electric meter in the VEC service territory) from Hinesburg and surrounding communities, who will be project participants. These investors will receive net metering
dollar credits applied each month to their VEC electric bills based on the amount of electricity produced the previous month for the number of investment units they have purchased.
“We are extremely pleased to have Union Mutual Insurance Company as a major participant in our Hinesburg solar project,” said Richard Carpenter, Acorn Energy Co-op’s treasurer. “Their support has been invaluable in bringing true community-owned solar to the VEC service territory.”
Six years after the Hinesburg project begins electricity production, the equity structure will “flip” and the individual investors may take full ownership of the project, making AES4 one of a small number of truly local, community-owned net-metered solar projects in the state.
“Acorn Energy Co-op is very excited to be moving ahead with this community-owned solar project developed by Vermonters for Vermont residents,” said Marks. “We believe the Hinesburg project will help decentralize the grid, and will also help the State of Vermont to reach its ambitious goal of 90 percent renewables by 2050.”
A schedule of informational online meetings for prospective investors can be found at: acornenergycoop.com.
Organized in 2008, The Acorn Energy Co-op is a member-owned cooperative serving residents and businesses in Addison, Rutland, and Chittenden counties. The Co-op provides education, outreach, products and services, as well as community solar projects that help members make the transition from our present reliance on fossil fuels to greater use of renewables and local solutions.
For more information on the Hinesburg solar project, or to join the Acorn Energy Co-op, visit acornenergycoop.com, email email@example.com, or call Mary Mester at 802-385-1911.
Many thanks to our sponsors: