Solar development continues to spread through Rutland
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | January 19,2013
The first solar project on city property has come online, while a second is in the works.
The project on the former poor farm off Woodstock Avenue has begun producing electricity, according to Mayor Christopher Louras, and it may have a neighbor before long.
GroSolar, a developer based in White River Junction, has bought a $5,000 option on 5.5 acres of the property and is in the due-diligence phase of its project.
GroSolar is looking to build a 1-megawatt facility on the land, according to city records. Calls to the company went unreturned this week.
Green Mountain Power, which has purchased 51 percent of the already-built poor farm solar facility, is planning a development on the city landfill property that could be the largest in the state. Louras said more proposals for municipal land could be in the offing.
“There have been conversations between the city and other developers and I know of, potentially, three other developers looking at three other locations,” he said.
He clarified that the latter properties were privately owned and he could not say where they were.
The mayor did say, however, that the city has spoken to developers about solar projects at White’s Playground, the water filtration plant and the Courcelle Brothers building. The city is expected to take over the latter from the U.S. Army Reserve “this quarter” — though Louras said the takeover has been repeatedly delayed.
“We’ve been told ‘this quarter’ for the last eight quarters,” he said.
Louras also said the developers talking to the city were looking at different models for projects on the sites, including one called “community net-metering,” in which a number of individual homeowners could take advantage of the power — much like the city is doing with the Woodstock Avenue project.
“A developer would build the facility with guaranteed customers to accept the output,” he said. “It would be a group of homeowners or businesses who would be the dedicated recipients of the power at below-market rates.”
Meanwhile, members of the solar industry trumpeted Green Mountain’s investment in the Woodstock Avenue project — in which it partnered with National Life Group, which bought a 49 percent stake — as “innovative project financing” that was new to the state.
“You haven’t seen, in Vermont, the sort of third-party equity financing you see in this deal, where you have Green Mountain Power and National Life pulling together to make community-level projects happen,” said Andrew Savage of AllEarth Renewables, which built the facility.