Department of Public Service recommends Chelsea motions be denied

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article misconstrued the nature of the Department of Public Service's filing. The DPS has recommended that the Public Service Board deny Chelsea Solar LLC's motions. The article has been updated with the accurate information.

BENNINGTON — The Department of Public Service has recommended that motions filed by a solar developer, whose project was rejected by the Public Service Board in February, be denied.

The 2-megawatt solar array proposed for 500 Apple Hill Road is backed by Chelsea Solar LLC, which wants to build it on a parcel east of Route 279, across from the Bennington Welcome Center. Chelsea Solar filed for a certificate of public good in June 2014 and garnered a great deal of local opposition.

The project abuts another proposed facility of similar size being proposed by Apple Hill Solar LLC. Both Chelsea and Apple Hill are subsidiaries of the same company, Allco Renewable Energy Limited.

According to a document filed by the Department of Public Service (DPS) on April 29, Chelsea Solar filed a number of motions in March regarding the project. The DPS has recommended the Public Service Board deny them all, largely on procedural grounds.

In an email to the Banner on Tuesday, Thomas Melone, chief executive officer of Allco Renewable Energy Limited, said the board has the Chelsea Hill project confused with the Apple Hill project.

"...the DPS just does not want to address the substance, so it is trying to stop consideration of the issues based upon procedural grounds," wrote Melone. "But why? All that would accomplish is forcing us to restart the process all over again, which we will do if necessary."

He cites references made by DPS to the project's visibility from the Welcome Center, or as the DPS asserts "a hillside above the Welcome Center," but Melone says the evidence shows the project will not be visible from there.

"The project is not visible so why would it be denied if not for motivations or bias unrelated to the actual project?" Melone wrote.

He said plans have been submitted that would reduce the size of the project.

"We trust that the PSB will do the right thing and allow further proceedings regarding the newly submitted plans," he wrote. "To not do that will only delay the day that they would be required to do so, and in the interim there would be a lot of continued litigation in the courts."

The Chelsea and Apple Hill projects, because of their proximity, were originally ruled to be the same project for the purposes of qualifying for state subsidies, but an appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court got them ruled as being legally distinct.

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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