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Here comes the sun

Co-op solar panels arrive

BRATTLEBORO—The penultimate step of solar-powering at the new Brattleboro Food Co-op took place late last week as six workers operated a 70-foot-high crane to lift the solar panels and related equipment from truck beds to the roof of the building at the bottom of Main Street in Brattleboro.

The last step, installing and turning on the photovoltaic solar array to supply 30.6 kilowatts of electricity to the busy and complex building below, is planned for mid-November, according to Tom Simon, local coordinator for Co-op Power of Southern Vermont, a consumer-owned energy cooperative.

Simon also said preliminary installation of the 120 SolarWorld sun module panels should be done by next week.

Co-op Store Manager Dick Ernst said the solar generation would supply about 10 percent of the store’s electrical use.

“But one of the real benefits of the new system is the ability to recover heat from our refrigeration units and use it to heat a good portion of our hot water,” he said.

Simon said his Coop Power is just getting ready to begin a new membership drive to help fund the rest of the member-owned project.

“We have 45 members so far,” he said, noting that for this project, 75 percent of membership fees will help to cover the total cost of about $172,000.

Membership fees range from $250 to $975, he said and, while there may be some overlap, membership in his organization and the Brattleboro Food Co-op membership is entirely separate.

“We got $68,000 back from government incentives,” Simon explained. “We’ve raised nearly half of the difference.”

Local companies have offered members rebates and reduced prices, Simon said. Anyone wishing to join the member-owned enterprise or in learning further information may call Simon at 802-380-5958.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #171 (Wednesday, September 26, 2012).

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