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Brattleboro Energy Committee proposes solar array at former WSWMD landfill

Questions and comments can go to Paul Cameron at Brattleboro Climate Protection at 802-251-8135 or pcameron@brattleboro.org. The Selectboard will meet Aug. 20 at 6:15 p.m. in the Municipal Center.

BRATTLEBORO—Is it possible to reuse a closed landfill? The town Energy Committee thinks Brattleboro’s former landfill on Old Ferry Road would be perfect for solar panels.

The Town Energy Committee sent a proposal to the Selectboard July 30 for one or more solar electric projects totaling about 2 megawatts located at the Windham Solid Waste Management District (WSWMD).

The board will consider the proposal at its Aug. 20 meeting.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s an ideal site,” said Paul Cameron, committee coordinator. “It’s just a matter of bringing together the right people.”

The potential site is outside the residential area, not suitable as agricultural land, and is open and receives ample sunlight.

Cameron said he recently visited a solar array on a capped landfill in Greenfield, Mass., and pointed out that more and more landfills in New England host solar panels.

Selectboard member David Schoales, who also serves on the WSWMD Board of Supervisors, worked with the energy committee on the proposal, said Cameron.

Cameron estimates the project would generate more electricity than the municipal government consumes.

Under the proposal, the town would purchase a portion of the attached net-metering credits at a designated discount. Local nonprofits that are “stable, long-term customers,” such as Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Brattleboro Union High School, or the Brattleboro Retreat would be able to purchase any extra credits.

The Selectboard approved a similar 500 kilowatt net-metering project last spring. That project would cover about half of municipal energy needs, said Cameron.

Brattleboro-based solar installer Integrated Solar will build and maintain that array. The company is still finalizing where to place the panels.

Net metering allows the owners of some small power generating systems to receive credits on their electric bills. According to the Public Service Board’s website, in Vermont, net metering means measuring the difference between the electricity supplied to a customer and the electricity fed back by a net metering system.

The committee estimates the solar project could generate about $64,000 in annual town net revenue, said Cameron.

According to the committee’s proposal, the town would lease about 20 acres of land at about $1,500 an acre. The rent would raise about $30,000 in revenue for the WSWMD, a move that the proposal says would benefit the district’s 15 member towns.

Construction and maintenance of the proposed landfill solar project would fall to a solar company chosen through requests for proposal issued by the town. The company would install, own, operate, and assume all liability for the system. The town would have the option to purchase the system after 10 or 20 years.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #216 (Wednesday, August 14, 2013).

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