Rooftop solar array powers TAM sites

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POWNAL — For Trevor Mance, the owner of TAM Recycling, it was a great chance to combine two environmentally friendly practices in one project — and lower electricity costs for his business sites in Pownal and Shaftsbury.

Manch approached Bhima Nitta, of Power Guru, LLC, last fall about a roof-mounted solar array at the TAM waste recycling operation on Church Street. The result was a 92-kilowatt group net metering system that is expected to cover the company's power costs.

"I think nothing goes more hand in hand than recycling and to have the power to run the recycling plant come from solar," Mance said. "It kind of furthered TAM's environmental initiative."

Saving on overheat costs also is important, he said, because of the withdrawal of many Chinese manufacturers from the market for recycled materials, resulting in revenue declines for U.S. companies like TAM Recycling.

"With the really bad recycling market that we're in, we need to cut our costs in any way to not have to pass on the drop in commodity pricing to the customers," Mance said.

The Pownal operation, which is located near the Pan Am Railway rail tracks off Church Street, has expanded in recent years at what was the site of the former Northeast Wood Products.

In Shaftsbury, the related TAM Waste Management Inc. operates a waste hauling business and maintains the company office building. Mance said net metering power credits from the solar installation are used by all three TAM locations.

Among overhead costs, he said, are cold weather block heater plug-ins for 40 rucks based at the Shaftsbury site and waste materials separation equipment in Pownal.

Rapid permitting

Nitta said the TAM Recycling rooftop array has 288 solar panels rated at 320 watts each, enough collection area to supply electricity to all three business sites.

The Pownal facility will take about 55 percent of the power credits through Green Mountain Power, Nitta said, while the Shaftsbury garage site is expected to use 27 percent and the TAM offices 18 percent.

He said the TAM project is similar in some ways to a 200-kilowatt, two-phase community net-metering project Power Guru has completed in Shaftsbury, supplying credits to residences, nonprofits and businesses that have purchased shares in the network.

That array is ground-mounted and located off Buck Hill Road in Shaftsbury.

Nitta said building-mounted arrays are increasingly popular because their smaller size, location on buildings and the fact they are far easier to move through the permitting process compared to ground-mounted systems.

The company is planning a system on the Bennington Wastewater Treatment Plant roof and recently completed one on Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, with plans for another on the St. Peters Episcopal Church parish hall, all in Bennington.

"Anytime we can do a roof mount that is vastly preferable to do that compared to a ground mount," he said. "It is just so much quicker to get permits through the state. Also, the public likes it better, and it is less expensive to do roof mounts than ground mounts and they can be installed faster."

Roof systems also are easier to permit and install, Nitta said, "but by the same token, there aren't that many fantastic roofs out there." He added that the size of ground-mounted systems allows more customers or shareholders to be served.

Nitta said he is working along with others around the state to relax the Public Utility Commission permitting requirements for ground-mounted facilities.

As for the TAM project, "Everything went like clockwork" Nitta said, with permitting completed within a month and the installation finished in time to qualify for tax credits available through Dec. 31.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien     


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