Energy

State approves solar array that will be Vermont’s largest

The Vermont Public Service Board. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger

State regulators have approved a massive Windsor County solar array that will be four times the size of any such project built in Vermont so far.

The Coolidge Solar project, to be built in Ludlow and Cavendish, will be capable of producing 20 megawatts of power. The largest existing array in Vermont is just under 5 megawatts, according to state officials.

A project of this size “had the potential to raise significant issues,” Public Service Board members wrote. But the board said developer Ranger Solar had taken extensive steps to mitigate impacts on aesthetics, the environment, wildlife and power infrastructure.

In granting a certificate of public good, the board wrote that Coolidge Solar “will result in significant economic and environmental benefits for the state of Vermont.”

“Furthermore, the evidence presented in this docket has convinced us that the proposed project can be constructed without undue adverse impacts on Vermont’s natural and built environment and without presenting a risk to health and safety,” board members wrote.

A screenshot of the Ranger Solar Web page.
The Coolidge project application dates to 2015, and it initially spurred concerns from state officials, utilities and some neighbors.

There were worries about whether such a large array could be appropriately sited. There also were doubts about whether the state’s electrical infrastructure could handle Coolidge Solar without expensive upgrades.

In late 2015, a Green Mountain Power spokeswoman said the company opposed the project because of cost concerns and because its size conflicted with the utility’s long-term supply strategy.

The power supply conflicts with Green Mountain Power appear to have been resolved by the fact that Coolidge Solar’s electricity will be going out of state.

The Public Service Board said the project was a winning bidder in Connecticut’s efforts to boost its renewable energy portfolio, and Coolidge Solar is negotiating 20-year power purchase agreements with utilities serving that state.

In testimony before the Public Service Board earlier this year, Ranger Solar President Adam Cohen said both the power and the renewable energy credits from Coolidge Solar would be sold to Connecticut utilities.

Even though Green Mountain Power won’t be buying the array’s electricity, Coolidge Solar still will be using Vermont infrastructure. So the project’s state approval is contingent on the developer’s filing a final system impact study and allowing four weeks for its review by interested parties.

At this point, state documents say, Green Mountain Power “does not anticipate any adverse effects on system stability and reliability” due to the addition of Coolidge Solar.

But the utility wants to be sure, said Kristin Carlson, external affairs vice president.

“To protect customers from any potential impacts, Green Mountain Power asked the Vermont Public Service Board and the board required the developer do a study to assess any impacts to the grid as a result of this project,” Carlson said. “The board is also requiring the developer pay any associated costs to connect to the grid.”

A map on the wall in Green Mountain Power’s control room. File photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
The PSB apparently wasn’t concerned that Coolidge Solar’s power is going out of state. Instead, the board adopted a broader, longer-term perspective.

Board members noted that Vermont is part of the regional wholesale electricity market operated by ISO-New England. They cited Coolidge Solar’s “extremely low” operating costs and “relatively low fixed costs.”

“Given that Vermont relies in part on the wholesale market for energy and capacity, the project’s ability to lower wholesale prices should, in turn, result in lower retail costs for Vermont consumers,” the board wrote.

The board also said the array is expected to operate beyond the 20-year deal with Connecticut, “after which the project’s energy, capacity and (renewable energy credits) could help meet Vermont’s need for energy and capacity.”

The board cited a number of other factors in its approval of Coolidge Solar, including:

• Regional energy needs.

“The project will help alleviate a gap between needed and available capacity that the region will face in the coming years due in part to the retirement of existing fossil and nuclear generating units,” the board wrote.

Additionally, “all six New England states have aggressive and increasing requirements for renewable electricity,” board members said.

• Proximity of major electrical infrastructure.

The array will be within 600 feet of a Vermont Electric Power Co. substation and “in close proximity to several large, existing transmission lines,” board members wrote.

Also, state documents say a new converter station is proposed in the area via the New England Power Link project.

• Community outreach and adherence to municipal plans.

Coolidge Solar “will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region” and is consistent with town and regional plans, the state says.

Coolidge Solar worked with town officials in Ludlow and Cavendish as well as with the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission.

Ludlow’s Selectboard voted in December 2015 to support Coolidge Solar, and that support was noted by the Public Service Board in its approval of the project.

• Economic benefits.

The board says Coolidge Solar is expected, over the course of the next two decades, to generate $15 million in labor income and more than $25 million in gross domestic profit for Vermont. Also, the array is supposed to increase state and local tax income by nearly $4 million.

During construction, which is projected to last six months, the project will employ about 80 people, according to state documents. “Four full-time permanent positions are expected thereafter,” the board wrote.

• Environmental impacts.

The board found no evidence that Coolidge Solar would have “undue adverse effect” on wetlands, streams, water supplies, soil erosion and other areas of concern.

Furthermore, the array “will promote air quality in the state and region by displacing fossil fuel generation and associated greenhouse gas emissions,” officials wrote.

Coolidge Solar also has taken steps, in consultation with the state Agency of Natural Resources, to mitigate harm to deer wintering areas and breeding birds.

• Historic sites.

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation has weighed in on the project. Officials say Coolidge Solar will be constructed so it does not have undue adverse effects on the historic Barker Farm or on any Native American archeological sites.

• Aesthetics.

Despite the fact that Coolidge Solar will feature about 82,000 solar panels and result in 38.5 acres of property being cleared, the Public Service Board said the project won’t have significant effects on the area’s scenic or natural beauty.

That’s accomplished in part via landscaping and “establishment of a vegetation management zone.”

Overall, the board wrote, Coolidge Solar “does not have a broad visual impact” and “would not shock or offend the typical passerby in part because it is located in a remote area.”

In addition to the Coolidge project, Ranger Solar has proposed several other large-scale photovoltaic arrays in Vermont. The status of those projects was not immediately clear Tuesday.

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  • Skyler Bailey

    Solar, not wind, is the future of electricity generation. It is much less aesthetically disruptive than wind turbines, much easier to build, much easier to dismantle if and when it is decided to make different use of the land on which solar arrays are built, and there is much more room for improvement in the technology. Of far greater import, it has the ability to enable households to be electricity self-sufficient, which is certainly a Vermont value. No wonder then, that there is such a push from Montpelier and GMP for industrial wind and then begrudgingly for large solar arrays that will sell the power out of state. You can’t sell electricity to someone who makes their own, and you can’t tax what isn’t bought.

    • Matthew Davis

      But the wind blows at night….

    • Paul Richards

      “Solar, not wind, is the future of electricity generation.”
      Solar should be on every rooftop however, the future of base load electrical generation is nuclear. The sooner we recognise that and embrace it the sooner we will be on the path to a stable, environmentally sound energy policy.

      • Matthew Davis

        Please name one utility in the NE grid that is proposing to build a nuke plant.

        • Paul Richards

          That’s exactly the problem. Apparently our governments would rather blast up our national forests for wind turbines and clear cut our other forests and plaster our fields, meadows and wetlands with solar panels while chasing the dream of a ultimate worldwide taxing scheme. It’s all a sham in the name of wealth redistribution.

          • bill_christian

            They will build rarely used roads and foundations. Try to find evidence that the world’s largest wind turbine once stood outside Rutland, VT. If you want to see blasted up land that will never be the same, see mountain top removal. See the top 700 feet actually chopped off to make a short flat mountain. And see that 700 feet, filled with toxic mine tailings, in the valley below, choking the stream flow.

          • Matthew Davis

            The problem is nuclear plants are too expensive and that is why none are being built, especially when gas, solar and wind are considerably cheaper. Why would a utility build a nuke plant in the current market?

        • David Dempsey

          Matt,
          Most scientists agree that if demand for power continues as it is today, nuclear power will need to be part of the mix. Scientists and physicists are working on the next generation nuclear power plants that could all but eliminate waste and could actually use spent fuel to produce power. Even today plants and tests plants are proving to be efficient and much safer. There are a lot of private companies competing today to find new technologies to improve nuclear power plants. I’m not saying that the original nuclear plants were completely safe and they also created the problem of radioactive waste, with no real plan for getting rid of it. But we should pay attention to the progress of these new reactors as technology continues to improve.

          • Matthew Davis

            I totally agree and am a supporter of modern, small scale nuke plants. I think it totally makes sense for VT utilities to pursue this, but when will the technology be available and cost effective?

      • bill_christian

        Nuclear “might” be the future. It has a little baggage. It costs more than solar and wind for starters. Plus various very minor (?) safety concerns, and questionable long term fuel supply. If you can make it cheap, safe, and sustainable very long term, I’m down with it. Not there yet by a long shot.

    • bill_christian

      I love small scale solar. But large scale solar is cheaper, and we definitely need it because there isn’t enough residential rooftop capacity. Large scale solar is so much better than burning fracked gas and coal.

    • Ken Egnaczak

      I am all for electricity self-sufficiency but with intermittent and variable solar you will need to be grid tied so you will have an “energy bank” to withdraw from when your solar is under-producing or multi days of battery storage when the sun doesn’t shine or has low intensity like in winter. The future should not be dependent on a single source of electrical generation. Local diverse energy generators ( solar, wind, Small / Micro hydro, biomass) serving the local community should be our future. Keeping the MoneyMen at bay and eliminating regressive gov’t dictates like suffocating discriminatory hydro regulations will allow us to accomplish this. Also, you do realize that solar is a “winter warmer”. The “black billboards” as Paul Richards describes them above obviously reflect much less sunlight than white snow. They actually affect the amount of solar energy delivered to the planet, unlike the other renewables. Interesting that your future solution actually contributes to warming.

      BTW they found ways to tax aside from purchase……personal property tax, income tax, property tax

      • bill_christian

        The extra heat generated by solar panels is a very tiny piece of the picture. 15% is turned to electricity, and almost all the rest is turned to heat. When sun lands on grass or trees, about 75% is turned to heat. Winter snow cover is a small part of the year when the sun is low in the sky. Not also that to make one kWh of electricity with coal, natural gas, or nuclear releases two to three 3 kWh of waste heat (hot exhaust and steam re-condensing). That’s way more than solar, but still minuscule compared to the long term warming of CO2.

    • JohnGreenberg

      Skyler Bailey:
      Households consume about 1/3 of Vermont’s electricity. Even if every house produced 100% of its own power, 2/3 of the power the state consumes (commerical and industrial use) would still be unaccounted for. Rooftop solar is not going to run the Global Foundries plant or even 100% of your local supermarket’s needs.

    • bill_christian

      JohnGreenberg is spot-on, below. Also, we have to power our transportation, and that is HUGE. We need small, medium, and large solar, and we need large wind, and we need to do all we can with hydro. We are in a race against time, for our children.

  • David Austin

    Given the level of influence that Big Renewable Energy has on the Legislature, the machinations of the Public Service Board are hardly surprising. It is disturbing that the Board, which allegedly exists to “Ensure the provision of high quality public utility services in Vermont at minimum reasonable costs, consistent with the long term public good of the state” is content to be complicit in the wholesale rape of the Vermont landscape. And to a certain extent, the ratepayers of this state as well. It does not have to continue to be this way, renewable energy can and should be developed in a manner that respects the natural environment and benefits consumers.

    • bill_christian

      There is extremely strong evidence that if we continue to burn billions of tons of coal, billions of gallons of oil, and billions of cubic feet of natural gas, for much longer, our children will be in deep, deep trouble. The small efforts we’d made over the last 40 years were not doing it. Most of the world has now accepted the challenge, and we are finally making progress. We need large scale and small scale renewable power. It is impossible to power America with only residential rooftop solar. (Although that is a very important part. There are MANY very important parts.

      • David Austin

        You are correct that there is strong evidence that suggests if we do not decrease our dependence on fossil fuels that we will suffer negative consequences. You are also correct that a lot of other countries are working to decrease their dependence on fossil fuels also. But a lot of the world is not, particularly parts of Southeast Asia. You are also correct that it is likely impossible to meet this country’s energy needs solely with residential rooftop solar. You could cover every square inch of Vermont with solar panels, and it would likely not matter much relative to global carbon emissions. Sacrificing Vermont at the Altar of Big Solar in an effort to achieve an empty philosophical victory is wrong.

        • Matthew Davis

          So what do you suggest for our state’s future electrical needs? Especially considering we currently import over 50% and the NE grid is losing capacity?

          • David Austin

            Matthew, I am not an expert on energy production or consumption trends. I am guessing that most of those commenting here aren’t either. It would be enlightening to hear from an unbiased expert who is. I believe that the responsible development of renewable energy, including solar, is critical for the well being of Vermont, and the world as a whole. For the numerous reasons, I and others have outlined, I don’t believe that the way in which industrial solar is being developed in Vermont is responsible. In answer to your question, I think that when you look at New England as a whole, there are significant opportunities to develop solar in places other than open farmland and natural areas. There are likely a number of sites that due to pollution or other negative environmental impacts would be a good fit for these types of projects. Brownfields, former landfills, and vacant industrial areas come to mind. Wind obviously has potential as well. But again, does placing it on Vermont’s mountaintops make sense? The wind blows fairly consistently off the New England Coast. But for some reason, I seem to recall the denizens of coastal Massachusetts not being very enamored of a plan to develop a wind “farm” there. Wonder why. Hydro would seem to have something to contribute as well, given the number of waterways in the region. But I think that it also may be time for us to take a hard look at the impact that lifestyle choices and development patterns have on energy consumption. Achieving long term sustainability while protecting the natural environment is likely going to require some changes from all of us at the individual level. I am fairly certain of one thing. And that is that the efforts at the federal level to relax emissions standards is definitely not the answer to Vermont’s, or any other state’s energy issues.

          • Paul Drayman

            Renewable energy is an urgent issue for civilization. The legislative and corporate push at this time has created a “gold rush” mentality. The future energy needs of Vermont would be better served by moving forward thoughtfully. As many of us have said, including Matthew Davis, the solutions will come in a variety of ways. The two biggest controversies today regarding RE are siting and scale. I believe that in order for RE development to be successful here, the scale has to be Vermont size and communities have to be involved and consulted regarding that. Cities and towns must definitely be making the decisions regarding siting, with help from those who can make this happen. The way this is going forward now is backwards.

          • David Austin

            Paul, Very well said. There are a lot of very thoughtful comments here on this thread. The issue is not whether solar and other renewables are valuable and necessary, it is about their implementation. Some years ago, when I was Chair of the Planning Commission in Vergennes, I had the experience of appearing before the Public Service Board. The City was an intervenor in an application by VELCO to construct a high tension power line which would have effectively bisected the City along Main Street. It was truly an Orwellian experience. The Board did not seem to grasp common rules of evidence, or even their own rules for that matter. It appeared that their existence was essentially nothing more than an enabling mechanism for the development of utilities, regardless of adverse impacts to Vermont. Based on the Board’s recent actions, it does not appear that things are much different today. Maybe some of those in the Legislature will read the commentary in this thread, and realize that those of us with concerns are not against renewable energy, but merely want what is good for Vermont to take precedence over the financial interests of developers.

          • Paul Drayman

            I’ve always been impressed with Vergennes. Being on the planning Commission of a small town is great experience for what is ahead of us, even though the PSB can sidestep any codes or goals of the town. Previously, they had to show that an electrical project addressed the power needs of Vermonters. Now they are not even required to address that issue, but they still call it “Public Good”.
            Recent legislation and PSB rulings have left an uncertain trail. Towns may be getting a seat at the hearings, but cannot determine siting. Newer attention to sound levels for wind development seems to be arising. What occurred to me, though, is that as set-back, sound and other restrictions are developed, that may just work against rural areas. The only places that will qualify for the towers may only be the less densely populated areas. Add to all that, the transmission line projects now scheduled for Vermont, will soon create more incentives and opportunities for developers large and small to connect to the grid with little regard for the impact on those most affected.
            It appears that without major legislative and legal opposition, the governing bodies, with tunnel vision, have turned our energy future over to the RE industry. It is the easiest and cheapest path to achieve their 90% finish line.
            One more thing, we’ve heard very little from our new Governor on the subject !!

          • JohnGreenberg

            “It appears that without major legislative and legal opposition, the
            governing bodies, with tunnel vision, have turned our energy future over
            to the RE industry. It is the easiest and cheapest path to achieve
            their 90% finish line.”

            With all due respect, it would appear to be the ONLY “path to achieve
            their 90% finish line.” What alternative is there?

            If there is no alternative, why denigrate “the easiest and cheapest pat?”

          • Paul Drayman

            Communities determine their energy needs, select a location and contract to build the RE development of their choice creating a micro-grid, Individuals and small businesses place solar panels on or near their buildings. Government guaranteed low or no interest financing. When demand is high or power supply is low, ISO-NE kicks in. There’s more to it, but that is generally my idea to begin to reduce, and some day eliminate, reliance on the NE grid. ISO-NE is 85% non-RE and that will not change more than a percent or two over the next 20 years.
            The 90 % finish line is a dream without a plan.

        • bill_christian

          What I fear is giving up, saying “what I do doesn’t matter because nobody else will do their share”. When people have done that, dark things have occurred. The opposite is to proudly say “we are Vermonters, we’ll show you how it’s done” and then see everyone else all over the world stepping up as well. And that’s actually happening in nearly every country on earth, in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, South America. The Middle East is building some of the biggest solar facilities on earth, because they know the oil is being used up.

  • Willem Post

    The 20 MW solar system will have a turnkey cost of about $70 million. The system will require about 7.5 acres/MW, or 150 acres, of which 38.5 acres needs to be cleared.

    The renewable energy credits, RECs, will be sold to Connecticut entities, so they can, on paper, help satisfy their state’s RE goals.

    None of that solar energy is allowed to be counted towards Vermont’s ever-more, elusive 90% goal, per Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruling regarding double counting.

    During variable cloudiness, the output, MW, of the solar system will vary from about 15 – 16 MW around midday, on a sunny day, during summer, but due to the passing of clouds, the output will suddenly decrease to about 2 – 3 MW.

    Such sudden variations likely will excessively roil the high voltage grid.

    Battery systems, with turnkey costs in excess of $10 million, for rapid voltage and frequency regulation, may be required by ISO-NE, as is the case in Rutland, with the GMP 2.5 MW solar system requiring a 4 MW/3.4 MWh battery system to avoid excessively roiling the high voltage grid.

    • bill_christian

      Who cares if Connecticut gets some solar power? They are helping us to save the planet. If we need batteries we need batteries. Is it better to burn hundreds of millions of cubic feet of fracked methane every day until it is gone and our air is chemically changed forever?

      • Paul Drayman

        Yes, solar may be helping to burn less fossil fuel. If, though “They are helping us to save the planet” why are we building it on our mountain tops and fields in Vermont? Why not on their hills, dales and shore lines?

        • bill_christian

          Land is cheaper here. Fact of life. A great thing about the free market system is it helps us naturally make best use of resources. High residential density and high home prices near cities with all their higher paying jobs. Forestry, diary farms, solar, wind, in rural areas where land is cheap and there are not huge numbers of high paying jobs. You are free to go to Westchester County and buy 200 acres for a diary farm but for 100 million dollars you are going to have to sell your milk for $100 a gallon. This is how the world works. We can benefit from solar and wind, as we’ve benefited from various other land-intensive uses before. We have land. Almost all the trees in Vermont were cut down in the 1800s for wood, charcoal (mostly for iron-making), for sheep farms. Guess what, trees grow back. What are a few roads, wind farms, solar farms? We will not permanently destroy our state with renewable energy. We will SAVE it.

          • Paul Drayman

            Mr. Christian, a hundred years ago, If people with a vision for Vermont like yours carried the day, there would not be one scrap of this state left undeveloped today. If that same frame of mind gets a foothold now using current technology and capabilities, the state will be unrecognizable in one decade. Just a place to hang your hat. Four walls and maybe even a porch for you to sit on and watch the traffic go by.

      • Willem Post

        Bill,

        They should use their own state to locate these 150 acre solar plants, instead using our state.

        Vermont would become an energy plantation to be exploited by other states, where $70 million of investment in solar systems creates just 4 permanent jobs.

        What if Connecticut multi-millionaires decided to place 20,000 acres of panels in Vermont.

        Would the PSB continue to approve this, or would the outcry become just as loud as with 500-ft tall wind turbines on pristine ridge lines?

        Someday, we are going to need that open land for food for people and animals.

        Such an economic policy, dreamt up by leaders of RE lobbies and in government and in the legislature, is irrational, to say the least.

        • JohnGreenberg

          Willem Post:

          “where $70 million of investment in solar systems
          creates just 4 permanent jobs” AND “$15 million in labor income and more than $25 million in gross domestic profit for Vermont” PLUS “increase state and local tax income by nearly $4 million” PLUS the “the project will employ about 80 people” for about 6 months PLUS, of course, all that electricity. And, don’t forget: “the array is expected to operate beyond the 20-year deal with Connecticut, “after which the project’s energy, capacity and (renewable energy credits) could help meet Vermont’s need for energy and capacity.””

      • Matthew Davis

        CT won’t get the electricity. It is sold on paper. The power will go to the nearest load, which will likely be here in VT given that we import more than 50% of our power.

    • Edward Letourneau

      There is a solution for grid instability. Its called the enhanced gas turbine, where the battery bank provides power for 20 minutes while the gas turbine is coming up to speed and peak operating efficiency. But hey, solar is the way to go. Just ask all the environmentalists.

      • Matthew Davis

        Willem Post has a plan for a gas plant in Vernon. Too bad there is no pipeline….

      • bill_christian

        The Bear Swamp pumped hydro facility on our southern border can ramp from 0 to 600 MW in 2 minutes. Or back down. Problem solved. Just need smaller amounts of local distributed short-term storage, and upgraded grid capacity. Not magic.

  • Ken Egnaczak

    Well, so much for solar’s much touted benefit of “local” generation ! So there isn’t 38.5 acres in Connecticut that could be “cleared” for this facility ? The MoneyMen have again hijacked the solar revolution……………….

    • Paul Richards

      The project is going to gobble up a total of 90 acres of farmland. The 38.5 acres is just the amount of the clear cut needed to plaster these 95,000 black billboards across our landscape so that Connecticut power users can save what is left of their open spaces. How can anyone in their right mind think this is good for Vermont, or anyone else? O well, since the Green Mountain National forest is already devastated by the industrial wind project what is one more blight on Vermont? What a travesty!

      • bill_christian

        I knew a dairy farmer a long time ago who cleared 38.5 acres for additional grazing land. Was that a travesty? Milk, electricity, we need them both, they both require land. If we remove the cows or the panels, it goes back to woods very quickly.

        • Ken Egnaczak

          There is a difference. The grazing land feeds cows but also serves as a wildlife habitat. These solar farms, unless they have high mounted panels, are for the most part dead zones. Also, if the panels or cows are removed, the grazing land goes back quicker/better because the cows have been fertilizing the land they occupied.

          • bill_christian

            Is the land under a tree a dead zone too? No. I see grass and brush under these panels. And wildlife.

        • Paul Richards

          Did the additional grazing land help the farmer in VT or a farmer in CT.?
          Comparing milk to electricity is like comparing apples and oranges.

          • bill_christian

            No, they are just about the same. Both are solar power. Land turning solar power into something we need.

        • Christopher Daniels

          The travesty for these commentators is that it’s renewable energy that they view as unnecessary, as there’s no such thing as global warming. Otherwise, a Walmart on the spot, or a housing complex, or a strip mall anywhere else would be just fine.

          • David Austin

            Renewable energy is certainly necessary, along with efforts to reduce consumption. Global warming is most likely a reality that if not accepted and dealt with, will likely have negative results sooner than later. Walmarts, McMansions, Strip Malls? The last thing Vermont needs is to continue down the road of becoming more and more generically suburban. And it does not need more large scale solar “farms” either. The real travesty is that many people who claim to cherish the natural and working landscapes of Vermont inexplicably support industrial renewables merely because their development embodies the currently politically correct perspective they are being fed.

          • bill_christian

            In my Vermont neighborhood, we all drive every day to work, school, etc, we all use electricity, we use a lot of oil and propane to heat our homes. We use a lot more fossil fuel than people living in Brooklyn do (per person, average). But we love it here. So I feel obligated to do my share, to reduce the permanent harm I do to our air. And to leave a little bit of oil and gas to be used in 300 years.

          • David Austin

            It is nice that you enjoy living in Vermont. The fact that you and others choose to order your lives in a manner that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels is yours to make. Making some lifestyle changes would do a lot more to reduce the permanent harm you are doing to our air than supporting industrial solar in Vermont.

          • bill_christian

            David Austin, I will bet you 1000 dollars that I use less fossil fuel than you do to drive and to heat my home, two things I have a lot of control over. But the town plows and sands my street. I eat and buy stuff that was shipped and manufactured with fossil fuel (although I grow a lot of my own food). The local kids go to school. My friends and neighbors work and shop and drive. We have a big hospital. I want to offset my share of all that and more.

          • David Austin

            Considering that you stated that in your neighborhood you and apparently everyone else “drive every day to work, school, etc.”, and I walk to my office, you would likely lose your $1000. I can also walk to stores, the library, restaurants, church, etc. I won’t take your money, VT Digger probably does not want to be complicit in the gambling industry.

          • bill_christian

            I think I’d win the bet. I work from home and use zero fossil fuel to heat my house or hot water. Near zero electric with solar.

          • Glenn Thompson

            You most likely have the financial means to do so? Most Vermonters don’t!

        • waltermoses38

          Milk has been in oversupply for some time now. 30 or 35 years. I guess a ‘long time ago” doesn’t apply to the current problem. Solar and milk? Oranges and onions.

          • bill_christian

            Not oranges and onions. Two productive uses of land. One turns the sun’s energy into grass, eaten by cows, for our milk. The other turns the sun’s energy directly into electricity for our use. Very similar. More like oranges and grapefruit.

      • Christopher Daniels

        The GMNF is not devastated in any sense of the word.

        • waltermoses38

          I guess you don’t live in Searsburg. Or Readsboro. GMNF is being torn up there.

          • bill_christian

            I drive through Searsburg and have seen zero evidence of anything torn up. Of course we all know that building roads causes damage. We’ve built thousands and thousands of miles of roads crisscrossing our state. One difference with wind farm roads is that there’s virtually no wildlife-killing traffic on them after the job’s done. The Searsburg wind farm is the only one I’ve ever been able to hear, because you can get very close with almost no traffic within a mile. (A car, half a mile away, drowned out the sound of these safe majestic machines when I was listening.)

    • bill_christian

      Ken, this is why we don’t sell maple syrup to Connecticut tourists. Why should we send syrup to a bunch of greedy out-of-state consumers? Same for the steering columns we manufacture in Bennington. We keep them all right here. Why should we sell them to a greedy corporation like Toyota that will benefit out-of-state workers and drivers? 🙂

      • Ken Egnaczak

        Hello Bill

        I understand the importance of out of state trade but that is not the point. The public was sold on the idea that solar was best and should be insanely subsidized because it allowed widespread distributed generation powering local consumption. We did not need to just have good local wind and hydro sites and significant transmission and distribution systems for local consumption, the sun shines everywhere so everyone has equal opportunity to harvest the sun from their roof or back yard for themselves and their neighbors…….the Solar Revolution. Well, so much for that myth. The MoneyMen have figured out that it is cheaper to go big, industrial size solar and put these land hogs where real estate is cheap, all to serve their (urban/suburban) customers many miles away. This is the new look of urban sprawl. This facility could have and should have been built in Connecticut to serve its local consumers but economics put it in Vermont.

        It is not difficult to envision the scale to which these solar farms will eventually get to. Ranger Solar proposes a 50 MW, 544 acre solar farm in Connecticut, in northeast Ct. where land is cheaper. At this rate we will be going back to centralized generators and abandon distributed generation.

        • JohnGreenberg

          “This facility could have and should have been built in Connecticut to serve its local consumers but economics put it in Vermont.” Why isn’t that true of Vermont milk and steering wheels? (Maple syrup production in CT is probably limited).

          Apparently, we not only don’t like “free trade,” now we’re against trade period. Hope you don’t like coffee or bananas..

          • Ken Egnaczak

            Again, this is not about trade, it is about a technology that was supposed to enable revolutionary local distributed power now being used to revert back to centralized power plants and increasing urban sprawl

          • Matthew Davis

            Urban sprawl?

          • Glenn Thompson

            If you travel Rt. 7 in Ferrisburgh and look out onto all those solar panels placed nearby that highway….you would not classify that as sprawl?

        • bill_christian

          Sad to say but bigger is cheaper. Economy of scale. True for farming, manufacturing, retail. But the difference in cost between home solar and a big solar farm is not as big as in other industries, and small solar is booming too. We need it both. We need a lot of solar, wind, and hydro. And we need to save. It will not be easy but we can do it. We are smart and we care about our children.

          • Ken Egnaczak

            The promise of solar was that it could be integrated into already built up areas like roofs, parking lots, landfills, and even co-existing in pasture lands and some croplands by using high mount structures. It surprises me ( well maybe not) the the Environmentalists are not fighting the destruction and fragmentation of forests caused by these big installations. I guess if they don’t care about the mining operations and hazardous manufacturing substances needed to make solar cells they may also look the other way when it comes to building these installations. I hope our children are smarter than us.

      • Paul Richards

        The steering columns made in Bennington don’t add much to urban sprawl like the solar panels do. They provide good, lasting jobs that contribute to our economy and sustainably contribute to the overall welfare of Vermonters which is the exact opposite of what is happening with this project. Vermont is hosting the land to be blighted in order to supply power to Connecticut so they can add lasting jobs that will contribute to their economy while not having to blight their own land. They get the good, we get the bad. What else is new?

        • bill_christian

          But they all go out of state. Those steering columns do not benefit people in our town. That’s why I oppose them. We should not buy anything or sell anything across state lines. Just makes sense, right? No, I guess not. Same with saving our planet by reducing the burning of coal. Save Vermont, save Connecticut, save Greece, save India. We all depend on the same air, the same ocean, same temperatures we’ve enjoyed for thousands of years.

          • Paul Richards

            “Those steering columns do not benefit people in our town.”
            No, not at all. Especially those who work there so they can provide for their families.

          • bill_christian

            Same for a solar farm. Income for landowner. Property taxes for the town. And after 25 years, thousands and thousands of tons of coal did not have to be strip mined and permanently added to our atmosphere as CO2.

    • Neil Johnson

      Have you noticed certain lobbyist groups that represent the “environment” are not making ANY sounds about this?

      Yet you want a convenience store off the interstate? That conforms with the town plan? Not going to happen, you will still be shut down.

      Our most powerful men and women in Vermont are not the governor, senator or representative. They are lobbyists. 500+ this year. (We only have 30 senators)

      There is a strong and valid reason people in Vermont want a functioning ethics commission. Jim Condos should be applauded for his desire to stand out and demand what is good for all Vermonters. As citizens we should demand no less.

  • John Freitag

    A better title for this article would be “Connecticut’s Largest Solar Array To Be Sited In Vermont” . Selling off the Renewable Energy Credits when the State is trying to achieve an incredibly ambitious goal of 90% of its power from renewable sources is a terribly bad move.
    Make no mistake about it these projects have a huge impact on our small communities. At our last Selectboard meeting in Strafford we met with developers of a 5 megawatt solar project being built this summer in our town. We are expecting to have 368 flat bed tractor trailer trucks coming through our small village this Spring and as well as another 300 10 wheeled dump trucks bringing in material for the project. In addition we are dealing with concerns over significant tree cutting to put in new power lines along the route and neighbors of the site who will be visually impacted.
    Nonetheless, as a Selectboard member I voted in favor of this project and am willing to take the heat. This is because I believe we have a responsibility for helping to provide for own energy usage, this particular project is located on a remediated copper mine tailing pile which is a suitable site that does not impact Vermont’s forest or farmland, and within 10 years all the REC’s will be retired to meet Vermont’s renewable energy goals.
    However to negatively impact our land, roads, and communities simply because it is cheaper for other States to use Vermont as a dumping ground for their needs and because Wall Street backed companies like Ranger Solar can make a greater profit here than putting solar panels in appropriate places like on top of shopping centers and over parking lots in Conn. and Mass. is something that is unconscionable.

    • bill_christian

      The controversy over what state prevents the burning of coal and fracked gas is foolish. Does not matter. Solar prevents burning of coal and fracked gas. Why on earth would anyone care who gets to say it’s them saving our planet, as long as our planet gets saved? Not me, that’s for sure.

  • Janice Ohlsson

    I simply do NOT understand how this solar array, with all its output being sold to CT helps VT attain it 2050 renewable energy goals! And once all the panels ar installed, there will not be any other long term employment.

    • Paul Drayman

      The article claims 4 permanent jobs. I assume in Vermont though It doesn’t say where. And, no it does not move us toward that goal at all, a goal which is nothing more than a “shell game”.

    • bill_christian

      Vermont’s real goal is to save our planet, not to personally attain 90% renewables by 2050. If we attain only 60%, on paper legally, by 2050, but power the rest of New England with our renewable farms, I will be extremely happy and proud (and better off financially since these facilities will be paying much of my property taxes and providing income to landowners who will spread their dollars around town).

      • Paul Drayman

        Spreading it around. Sort of like ISO-NE, except it’s money.

  • Kathy Leonard

    “In testimony before the Public Service Board earlier this year, Ranger Solar President Adam Cohen said both the power and the renewable energy credits from Coolidge Solar would be sold to Connecticut utilities.”

    Fig leaves are in short suppy in the formerly green mountain state as it rapidly transitions into the green mountain plantation – to benefit states who “farmed out” their externalities of industrial-sized solar and wind.

    Coming to an expanse near you in Randolph Center, Brandon, Highgate, Swanton, and other areas formerly known as villages, farmland, habitats and wildlife corridors – so that white platers don’t have to (for now) fight among themselves over whose ecosystem gets gored.

    Climate change is a symptom, the cause being our industrial civilization, overpopulation and over-consumption. It doesn’t seem to me that treating the symptom will correct the cause.

    • Ken Egnaczak

      I agree that overpopulation is a big issue, an issue that our “responsible” elected officials refuse to deal with. Industrialization though, with all of its negatives, still benefits society by providing opportunity and a better standard of living for most……..look what happens when industry leaves an area ( or country). At least industrialization started out on the right foot, the Industrial Revolution started out being renewably hydro powered !

      Over-consumption by itself is not a problem. If I plant apple trees I can over-consume apples all I want and not cause a problem. The problem is that most people today consume but produce nothing. Society promotes the easy life of consummate consumerism and since folks don’t produce themselves they promote industrial scale production to provide their needs.

      • Matthew Davis

        “industrial scale production to provide their needs.” While I generally agree with your point, there are certain economic benefits that come from generating power on a larger scale.

        • Ken Egnaczak

          Larger scale economics work better for dispatchable power. Variable, intermittent solar (and wind) have increasing cost items as they scale up. At some point someone will have to pay for the energy storage and the grid upgrades needed for large scale solar and wind, or we pay the solar and wind guys to not produce electricity during overproduction events.

          • Matthew Davis

            I don’t follow your point. What are the increasing costs of large scale solar and wind?

          • bill_christian

            No difference between 500 home systems and a big solar farm in terms of storage and upgrades. When we need them we install them. Did they not build cars because there were no roads to drive on? No locomotives because no rails?

          • Ken Egnaczak

            There is a difference. With the home systems there is spread out on-site demand that consumes some ( sometimes all) of the generation. With solar farms all generation goes to the grid from a single location.

  • Bob Barton

    I believe this article is incorrect in stating 38.5 acres will be used for this 20 MW project. Generally it takes about 7-8 acres to build a MW of ground-mount solar. Given this is a 20 MW project you’d expect it to use 140-160 acres of land. In an article titled “20 MW Solar Project Needed, Developers’ Report Says”, written on December 6, 2015 by Mike Polhamus for Vermont Digger, it was reported that 155 acres would be cleared to construct this 20MW project. Does anyone know how much land was cleared for this project? Paul Richards’ numbers in this comments section suggests a more accurate view of how much Vermont land is being used to benefit out of state developers and Connecticut utilities. The Public Service Board’s misguided approval of this project is an indication of how broken our system is.

  • Paul Drayman

    Well, finally the PSB admitted what the RE industry gobbledygook has tried to confuse and misrepresent for years. Since the electricity they produce goes into the N.E. grid, as almost all RE produced in Vermont does, it is untraceable from where it enters and all the way to the ISO-NE customers. When they tell you that a particular customer has agreed to buy (0-100 ?)% of their production, there is no transmission line that directs that power to that customer, it’s all a paperwork billing procedure. It is a financial arrangement in which Connecticut gets to infinitesimally improve their % of power produced from RE, on paper that is (which is all that matters). The developer, based in Maine, and owners of the various pieces and parts of the project (not sure who gets to sell the REC’s to Connecticut, pretty sure it’s Ranger Solar) including in Vermont, which will also get some tax revenue and as stated 4 permanent full time jobs, will benefit financially. Vermont does not get to move one iota closer to its imaginary 90 % renewable goal.

    • David Austin

      Paul, You have provided a very clear explanation regarding the chicanery involving industrial solar. I certainly understand why those with a financial interest in it, and the legislators who are beholden to them are in favor of these projects. What I do not understand is why anyone else capable of rational thought would believe that these types of projects are of net benefit to Vermont.

      • Matthew Davis

        “What I do not understand is why anyone else capable of rational thought
        would believe that these types of projects are of net benefit to
        Vermont.” They are a benefit because VT imports more than 50% of its electricity. While the power from this project is being sold on paper, it will actually go to the nearest load, which is here in VT. There are also clearly economic benefits that are described in the article. This also reduces the overall amount of fossil fuel that needs to be consumed in the NE grid.

        • David Austin

          Solar certainly can, and should play a significant part in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. There are obvious benefits from this and other large scale solar installations. But my comment references “net benefit” The negative impacts to the unique aesthetic Vermont enjoys far outweigh any benefits to anyone other than the developer and investors. There are plenty of other places in the United States where the sun shines. And with open land. Not to mention lots of rooftops. I remain at a loss as to why it makes sense that one of the smallest states in the country seems like a good place to blanket the landscape with solar panels. The only plausible explanation is the almost non-existent regulatory environment and the financial shell games regarding renewable energy that the Legislature has created.

          • Glenn Thompson

            “There are plenty of other places in the United States where the sun shines. And with open land.”

            BINGO!!!!

            And to point out, the capacity factor for solar is only around 12% in Vermont compared to double that for Arizona. Arizona also has countless acreage of land to put in a vast amount of solar compared to Vermont where you either fill in prime farmland or rip out acres of forest land. Large scale solar makes absolutely no sense for Vermont. Also keep in mind, solar is just about non-existent in producing power during the winter months when daylight hours are limited and peak demand for electricity can be and often is high.

          • Nicole Boar

            You make a lot of sense!

          • Matthew Davis
        • Paul Drayman

          Hundreds of thousands of solar panels and hundreds of wind towers constructed on Vermont’s landscape will only change the percent of non-renewable energy supplying the grid by minuscule amounts.
          On the subject of where the power goes, in order for RE developers to gain the advantages they need to make these projects financially feasible, the electricity they generate must be fed into the grid. The grid is already energized with electrons from hundreds of sources moving at near the speed of light. When the sun comes out and the electricity from the Ludlow plant starts trickling into the already electrified grid, those electron are not traceable. What you are talking about is valid, but affected by many factors and is illusive.
          The decision of the PSB to allow a fairly large scale (for Vermont) utility project to be constructed on our landscape ostensibly for the “Public Good”, but the benefits going to somewhere else, has caused a firestorm of controversy. This scenario is actually what has been happening with most of these projects around the state, but I think that this time it was explained in such a way that the general public was not aware .

    • Robert Lehmert

      That’s true, but both the locality and the State pick up substantial and reliable tax revenue otherwise foregone.

  • Peter Chick

    I was a bit surprised to see a solar farm in North Springfield near the cemetery.

  • JustinTurco

    In early March of 2016 my sister’s house caught fire due to a voltage spike. It burned to the ground. A house about 70 yards away experienced the same spike and his wall caught on fire. What was that spike attributable too? When we talk about grid instability due to highly variable and intermittent power sources like solar and wind…..I am a believer! The other thing I would like to say is: this article talks about replacing fossil and nuclear with solar. That is not going to happen. There is only one renewable capable of doing that job. Hydro. If Connecticut is so bent on meeting renewable energy targets they should build the projects in their state. Id like to say, I don’t appreciate being told that 38 acres will be cleared in this article. This is a 150 acre project. That’s the information people actually want to know and was probably not shared with Mr Faher. And finally, someone mentioned that the wind blows at night. True, but the wildly variable and intermittent industrial wind turbines that harvest this boom or bust resource are ruining neighbors lives due to sleep deprivation. A recent change in noise standards for Vermont failed to protect a landowner’s property value and other property rights by requiring developers to comply with the noise limitation at the property line. The noise limit only applies at the existing residence. Greatly harming the value of the homesites on the rest of a landowner’s land.

    • Ritva Burton

      I agree with you, Justin. Why is this solar project (I refuse to call them solar “farms” as they have nothing to do with a farm or farming) being built in VT if all the electricity is going to CT?? To create 4 permanent jobs?? Ridiculous. And why are the project builders trying to mislead the public by saying it will only take 38.5 acres of land when it actually will take 150 acres?? Build it in CT!

      • bill_christian

        4 jobs for 150 acres sounds similar to large diary farm or forestry operation. Nothing odd about that.

      • Matthew Davis

        The electricity won’t go to CT. It is sold on paper. The actual electricity will go to the nearest load, which will be in VT given that we are a net importer of electricity.

  • Jason Brisson

    I don’t understand the desire for solar farms, versus siting solar installations on existing buildings. This is VT, seems like every small town has a couple buildings that would suffice, or even a half dozen or dozen ag barns with solar panels down one side of the roof. Keep the land and the soil for growing food that future generations will need.

    All this talk about wind and solar–cow power is renewable too, and it reduces methane emissions. Put anaerobic digesters on several large farms in each county, and there wouldn’t be so much reliance on wind/solar. It’d also have the added advantages of increasing income to farmers, and reducing agricultural runoff into water supplies.

    • Matthew Davis

      The key to renewables is a diverse portfolio that will require multiple options including those you mention as well as biomass (wood). SOlar and wind just happen to be the cheapest right now…

      • Jason Brisson

        The key to renewables is storage, and we have a long way to go.

        • Ken Egnaczak

          The key to intermittent renewables like solar and wind is storage. Hydro already comes with storage like dam impoundments and watersheds.

  • Welcome to Vermont; the grayish silver mountain state.

    • Robert Lehmert

      If 40 acres of solar panels bothers you and despoils your private vision of Vermont, I suggest you visit Williston, South Burlington, and for good measure, the quarries in Barre.

    • bill_christian

      I would suggest that you visit Paradise, Kentucky, but it’s gone. Check Wikipedia. “Paradise was a small town in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky…” We really don’t have a very serious problem just “seeing” panels that can be unbolted and taken away any time, where in 100 years there would be zero evidence of their existence.

  • JustinTurco

    Yesterday I checked the load and reserve generation on ISO-NE’s website. I believe regional load was 19,000. Reserve 2100. Of that 1400 was renewable generation. How much reserve did they keep before renewables came into the portfolio? Let me guess…..700-800 MW. Renewable generation is the unused bonus that is nice to have but not worth paying for. ISO-NE is not leaning on this generation. Hydro is the only renewable they truly trust. Well….maybe cowpower too.

    • Matthew Davis

      Are you saying that “yesterday” is a good representation of load for the NE grid over a year? Have you also looked at the list of power plants scheduled to be shut down?

  • Nicole Boar

    I’d rather see this way of producing energy then those horrible wind towers which kill millions of migrating birds every year, plus they are noisy and dangerous.