Two solar projects under consideration in Chester
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | February 25,2013
CHESTER — The town of Chester and a private landowner might be tapping into the sun’s rays by the end of the year. That’s because they have until December to access federal and state financial incentives for building solar projects in Okemo Valley.
According to Town Manager David Pisha, there are two proposed solar projects on Route 103 in Chester. The town is pursuing a small one and Ralph Durante of North Haven, Conn., is pursuing a larger one in the same area on Route 103.
Pisha says various tax credits can be applied to start-up solar projects. Durante is now in the permitting phase of the project while the Select Board is considering its options before they give it a final stamp of approval.
“There are various incentives that can be used toward solar projects, provided that they are operating by the end of this year. Unless the Select Board moves to lease the property soon, these financial incentives will evaporate and there will far less interest in developing solar here in the area,” Pisha said.
Discussions have taken place with developers in the last six months. A proposed town solar project would be approximately 500 kilowatts which, according to Pisha, is about the same amount of power the town actually uses during the course of a year.
Solar power companies would own all the solar panel parts they install on the property and pay rent to the landowner. The electricity would be purchased by Green Mountain Power and the town will receive tax credits for producing renewable energy.
“We still get a credit back, which offsets a portion of our bill and potentially reduces our electrical costs by 10 percent a year,” Pisha said.
Durante is across from the town’s proposed site at Route 103 and Trebo Road. According to a Public Service Board documents, the Chester Solar Farm will produce 2.2 megawatts of electricity.
Rick Mazza of Solar Renewable Energy in Mechanicsburg, Pa., is overseeing the project and met with the Select Board on Wednesday. Mazza said they have completed their site and development plans and are now at the beginning of the Act 248 process.
Both solar projects must obtain an Act 248 permit, which requires an approval by the Public Service Board. A preliminary hearing is set for March 1 in Montpelier, he said.
The town on the other hand has spoken with three companies to develop their solar power site. Pisha said the town has met with Encore Redevelopment of Burlington, Sovereign Solar of Westminster and Region Solar in Saxtons River but no decisions will be made until the Select Board considers all proposals.
Pisha said he is excited about the opportunity and hopes it will benefit the taxpayers.
“If it can save the town money or earn income over years, then that’s a good thing for the community,” he said.
The Select Board will continue discussions on solar project proposals at upcoming Select Board meetings, they said. Attempts to reach Durante were unsuccessful.