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SHAFTSBURY — About 50 people attended an informational session sponsored Tuesday evening by developers of a controversial 20-megawatt solar project planned for a site off Route 7 and Holy Smoke Road.

In contrast to prior meetings before town boards and at Town Meeting — with many speaking in opposition and others in favor — the event was low-key and nonconfrontational.

Attendees asked questions of representatives of SunEast Development as they looked over mounted maps, site photographs and blown-up simulated images of an 80-plus-acre solar array.

Although the developer filed a preliminary notice of intent in December, a complete permit application had yet to be filed with the state Public Utility Commission, but company Chief Operating Officer F. Reed Wills said that could come as soon as Wednesday.


He said the application will reflect two revisions pertaining to citizen comments and expressed concerns. The developer now has “concept approval from VTrans for a temporary [exit] break in Route 7.”

That is subject to final engineering and traffic plan approval by the state, but Wills said it addresses concerns about the effects of construction and other traffic on the narrow roads surrounding the project site. The intent is to create a temporary exit off the highway to provide direct access.

After the permitting process, the construction period “should happen over a season,” beginning in the spring and running through October, he said.


Additionally, Wills said, the developer is offering to relocate and replace a segment of a century-old town water line running through the area with a modern line, “totally at our expense.”

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Other aspects of the proposal, he said, include offering to set aside 67 acres of the overall 190-acre parcel for conservation, in reaction to concerns about tree-cutting that would be required.

“And we are doing everything we can to manage the site with as little disturbance as we can,” he said.


The size of the solar array itself, which has been a focus of opponents, is still proposed at about 80 to 83 acres, Wills said.

The 20-megawatt project would be one of the largest in Vermont and far larger than any currently operating or proposed in Southern Vermont — all generally below 2.2-megawatt capacity.

The array would be expected to generate about “38,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy each year to the New England electric grid,” according to the developer’s notification letter.

During the annual Town Meeting in March, residents approved motions on voice votes, asking the Select Board and Planning Commission to become formal intervenors during permit proceedings before the PUC and opposing the project.

The informational session was held at Shaftsbury Elementary School.

A few opponents of the project, who have formed the group Stop Shaftsbury Solar, stood at the school entrance, seeking signatures and talking to people entering about those opposition efforts.

Inside the school auditorium, dialogue stations set up by the developer focused on project and developer overviews; the regional electric grid and property tax revenue from such a project; engineering and design details; site soils and stormwater effects; wildlife and natural resources impacts; aesthetics and mitigation; construction details; operation and decommissioning planning; and the PUC permitting process.

Jim Therrien can be reached at or by phone at 413-281-2646.


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