Pawlet solar project could expand
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | March 25,2013
PAWLET — A solar initiative proposed for a property just north of town may be expanded to produce even more energy.
Gene Bertsche, president of Northeast Community Solar, said the company is contemplating expanding the project from 150 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts. He said that could entice more investors for the project.
“The biggest challenge of doing solar projects in Vermont is that they are not big enough,” Bertsche said this week. “It’s hard to get banks.”
By making the project larger, he said, “it makes it somewhat more attractive.”
He added, “Nobody was interested in touching it (at 150 kilowatts).”
The project initially was expected to cost $750,000. With the expansion, the estimated cost is now in the ballpark of $1.3 million, the developer said.
The company, based in Perkinsville, was awarded a certificate of public good from the state Public Service Board last year for the smaller project. Bertsche said NCS is gathering the paperwork and may file for the larger project in the next couple of weeks.
The new 500-kilowatt project will include around 2,000 solar panels within 4.5 acres of a 9-acre property on Route 30, just south of the Wells town line. The rest of the property will be used for local agricultural projects.
To achieve this, the array of panels will be installed on single-center posts that allow for ground work. The posts will be separated by enough space to allow a local farmer to use the land, Bertsche said when the project was first proposed.
NCS was founded by local experts in solar energy, construction and finance with the idea that community-based solar power will play a role in Vermont reducing its dependence on foreign energy.
“We believe Vermont and the United States in general really needs to expand their energy portfolio,” Bertsche said. “It’s practical here. It’s local solutions for local problems.”
He compared the effort to Vermont’s localvore movement — with energy instead of food.
The solar project is contingent on financing, Bertsche said. He hopes to entice some local banks to invest.