Manchester approves potential solar project on town land
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | April 26,2013
MANCHESTER — The Select Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to grant a Massachusetts company an option which could result in a 2.2-megawatt solar-powered electricity generation plant on town land. But an official with the company said the odds are not good the project will get the state support it needs to move forward.
As of Tuesday, EOS Ventures, of Hancock, Mass., has a three-year option on a piece of land commonly called the “airport land” off Route 7. If they exercise the option, they will pay the town $50,000 a year to use it for the solar project.
John Guerin, director of energy development for EOS, said the company would need to propose one of a small number of renewable energy projects supported by Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development, or SPEED, program for the solar project to move from concept to reality.
“That is going to be, by far, our biggest hurdle. We’re competing for 4.5 megawatts and all other renewable technologies are competing for that 4.5. So Cow Power, wind, hydro, bio-gas, landfill gas, we’re all competing,” he said.
All applicants must submit a price for their electricity on a kilowatt hour basis for 25 years. In what is called a “reverse lottery,” the lowest bidders will be chosen.
The proposal must be submitted by Wednesday. A response is due from the state May 15.
Guerin said he had come to the Select Board on Tuesday because he couldn’t submit a bid without proof that he would be allowed to build the project on a particular site if it’s chosen to be one of the SPEED beneficiaries.
Guerin said the “odds are very slim” that the Manchester project will be selected, but he believed EOS would try again in 2014.
In Pownal, EOS Ventures also developed a 2.2-megawatt solar-powered project. In that case, the project was turned over to an international company, Gestamp Renewables, to be built and operated. Guerin said Tuesday it was yet to be determined whether EOS would own the potential Manchester project.
Guerin also said the fact that there are about 8,000 panels in Pownal doesn’t mean the same number would be used in Manchester because more efficient solar panels are now available.
By state law, the agreement includes a decommissioning fund which would obligate EOS, or whatever entity owns and operates the potential solar power project, to remove the equipment from the property if it’s no longer in operation. Guerin said he expected the construction would require the removal of some trees from the site.
Lee Krohn, the town’s planning director and zoning administrator, said Tuesday he hoped the board would consider using the lease income, if the project comes to pass, to finish the project begun during the construction of the roundabout to remove utility wires from the line of sight in downtown. Some of the lines were either buried or moved to back lots and the rest of the work has been planned but funding would be needed for the last of the wires to be moved.
The Select Board asked about what seemed like an unusual request to allow sheep-raising at the site. Guerin said it was something that EOS hadn’t done before, but some projects allowed for a farmer to use the land of a solar power project for sheep to graze.