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Future solar projects in town put on hold

GUILFORD—Dan Ingold, of GLC Powersmith Solar, recently announced the end of big solar projects in Guilford, at least for the foreseeable future.

“Not gonna happen,” he told the Selectboard at their Jan. 11 meeting. “I’ll tell you right now, for these larger [solar] projects, that’ll probably be it. The reason is, Green Mountain Power [GMP] has met their net metering cap.”

He explained that Vermont utilities had to offer 15 percent of their previous year’s peak load to groups and individuals generating their own power using renewable energy. According to Act 99, passed in 2014, the power companies had to buy back that power via net metering.

On Nov. 13, Ingold said, GMP met their 15 percent net metering cap for 2015.

Since then, he said, “they’ve actually rejected 77 applications throughout Vermont for projects larger than 15 kilowatts."

According to Ingold, GMP is still accepting systems of 15kW and smaller from individual homeowners and small businesses.

Ingold was at the board meeting to report on the progress of the town’s major solar projects. Of the three 500kW solar systems being built in town — Kirchheimer Drive, Blanchard Hill, and John Seitz Drive — Ingold’s company is involved in the latter two.

He said all three projects are far enough along to not be affected by GMP’s cap on new net metering systems.

The project at Kirchheimer Drive had its interconnection application submitted in July, and its Certificate of Public Good [CPG] application is in progress, Ingold said.

Blanchard Hill’s interconnection application was submitted, the CPG was received, and construction has begun on that system, he added.

Ingold expects to receive the CPG for the John Seitz Drive project soon.

Ingold estimates the three large solar projects will bring Guilford a total of about $7,000 per year in revenue. He noted these systems “don’t need public services,” such as schools or roads.

The bad news is, the grant the town was seeking to expand the solar project on the town garage “probably won’t happen,” Ingold said.

However, if the solar array planned for the Windham Solid Waste Management property goes through, the town can participate in that.

He said GMP is looking into redoing the net metering program in 2017, “but I’d be very surprised if they’re going to do any more of these larger projects."

“Overzealous developers running roughshod” over towns, especially in Rutland and Chittenden counties, had created “bad feelings” about larger solar projects, Ingold said.

“The rules [for net metering] have kind of changed in the last few months,” Ingold told board members.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #343 (Wednesday, February 10, 2016). This story appeared on page C1.

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