Soveren Solar, a Westminster company, is going to start construction in the spring on a 150 kilowatt solar farm in North Springfield, and company founder Peter Thurrell said he is finalizing land leases in Townshend and Westminster, and at least one other location, for his other community solar farms.
Under the community solar model, any Green Mountain Power customer can purchase panels in the solar array and the credit the panels generate are used to pay for the electricity that is consumed in the customer's home or business.
"Vermont has the best net metering legislation in the country," Thurrell said. "Solar power has never been this affordable. For the first time ever it is cheaper to invest in solar panels than it is to pay for electricity every month."
Thurrell said he has the North Springfield site secured and is finalizing deals in Westminster and Townshend. Each farm will produce enough electricity for about 25 households.
An average household needs between five to 10 kilowatts.
He said Soveren hopes to find additional locations as more customers look to be involved with the community solar projects.
Along with the state's net metering law, which allows customers to generate electricity off any solar array and use those credits against the electricity used at the home or business, the cost of solar panels has also dropped.
"There are no more hurdles for people to get around. Any GMP customer, including former CVPS customers, can be a part of this," said Thurrell. "The strong state support for renewable energy is making this possible."
Customers who purchase the solar panels can also use a 30 percent federal tax credit to help bring the price down on their investment. Vermont also offers a 7.2 percent investment tax credit.
Thurrell said Soveren is donating 10 percent of the total credits from the community solar farms to a non-profit organization in the community where the farm is located.
The Springfield Food Co-op will receive the first donation from the North Springfield solar farm.
All maintenance and upkeep is included in the purchase price.
Depending on the size of the home or business, payments on the investment can be about equal to the average GMP bill.
It will take about 15 years to pay down the equipment, after which the power generated is free.
"Community solar makes it possible for anyone to have solar power, even if they don't own their own home," Thurrell said.