WILMINGTON >> Cost savings and cleaner energy are cited as reasons behind the Hermitage Club's move to solar.
The 20-year power purchase agreements for energy will involve construction of five new solar farms by 2016. Two of the sites will be on Hermitage property, but all of them are expected to power up to 90 percent of the company's private ski resort operations at Haystack Mountain and maybe more.
Hermitage Club owner and founder Jim Barnes has been talking about the possibility of the project with SolarSense, an affiliate of Alternative Energy Development Group, for nearly a year.
"It's something that's been a priority to Jim (Barnes) and the Hermitage Club," said Meredith Morin, director of communications for the Hermitage Club. "There's so many interesting things about it."
All five sites are expected to produce an amount of energy that is greater than 2,900,000 kilowatt hours annually while reducing the carbon dioxide equivalent of 2,000 metric tons a year or 2,147,000 pounds of coal burned. Two 150kW projects will be located at the resort and three 500kW projects will be off premises.
"We will first be applying production credit to the Hermitage Club's Haystack (operations) and its large electrical consumption," SolarSense founder and CEO Chris Fraga said. "We will then apply additional production to the other various properties owned by Hermitage until we use up all of the production and credits that we are generating."
Fraga was referring to properties which include a golf course and airport. If all the solar farms are successfully developed, he believes the additional properties could be powered through the efforts. He said the third-party landowner sites are already under development.
"The total cost of the solar farms is in the $6 to $8 million range, depending on the final number of sites constructed," he said.
Design, planning and vetting for the Hermitage sites is currently underway. Fraga is looking at a location on the north side of an existing ski trail that follows the contour of the trail and a place above an existing water retention basin that would be elevated in a way to not interfere with the basin.
Permitting and utility approval is expected in the spring then construction would occur through the summer and fall.
"The hope is to be online and using this power by the end of 2016," Morin said, mentioning that she's heard "a few other rumblings on the horizon" for future clean energy plans such as electrical charge stations for cars.
SolarSense also has projects with the state of Vermont and several commercial clients. But the Hermitage project is one of the only groups using the credits rather than selling them, Morin said.
"We have elected not to sell those. It is total green power," she said. "I think it's such a huge commitment to the environmental sustainability of the area and really taking into account the way we, as a club and as Vermonters in general, consume energy and the way we're trying to find ways to be kinder in our consumption."
The ski resort alone has five lifts to receive power from the solar farms. SolarSense will develop, own and operate the projects while KRN Solar will design, engineer and construct them. Several Vermont-based professional service firms and trades groups are expected to contribute to the projects, which will generate new local municipal and state taxes.