Two solar projects underway in Bennington

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BENNINGTON — Two 500-kilowatt solar generating facilities are in the preliminary construction phase in Bennington, while a third of similar size is well under way in North Pownal.

Encore Renewable Energy has begun work on an array on 3.5 acres off Route 7 in Bennington. The parcel, which will be leased, is owned by Shirley McClenithan, according to the company.

The town will receive net-metering credits through the project, providing a 15 percent discount that is estimated to save Bennington $750,000 over 25 years on electricity bills for the town's wastewater treatment plant.

The Burlington-based Encore also is constructing an array on a similar sized parcel off Murphy Road, on land leased from the Randall family. The project will provide metering credits to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

William Hall, director of engineering with Southwestern Vermont Health Care, said the medical center expects to save $25,000 to $26,000 per year on its electricity bill over the life of a 25-year agreement.

The hospital's annual budget for electricity currently is $990,000.

"From our end, this is a way for the hospital to contribute toward the state's renewable energy goals," Hall said, "and it gives us a chance to reduce our [electricity bills]."

The state's goal is to receive 90 percent of Vermont's energy from renewable sources by 2050.

"We have been working on these projects for some time with the town and other stakeholders, including the Agency of Natural Resources and the Public Service Board," said Derek Moretz, chief development officer with Encore.

He said work on the two arrays in Bennington is expected to continue through July when they will go online, providing power to Green Mountain Power solar-generated power through the grid.

In March 2016, the Select Board approved the agreement allowing the Route 7 project, which will supply the town with a discount through net metering credits over 25 years. Town Manager Stuart Hurd said that, once the array is online, all town facilities will be in net-metering programs.

Power generated at the Vermont Tissue Paper mill dam hydro facility on the Walloomsac River in North Bennington also is supplying discounted electricity for town facilities.

The Route 7 project will include natural screening of the array from the highway, Moretz said.

That facility will be located across the highway from a 150-kilowatt array erected earlier this year by Green Lantern Group, of Waterbury. That facility will provide discounted power for at least the next 20 years to the Sheriff's Department, along with up to $95,000 in lease payments over the contract life.

Green Lantern Group also is developing a 500-kilowatt array on a section of gravelyard site off Dean Road in North Pownal. That facility is expected to be online and producing power for the electricity grid by June.

The credits for the power generated will go to Mount Snow resort, according to the company's proposal.

Jim Therrien writes for the Bennington Banner and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.






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