Solar planned for site off Monument Ave.

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BENNINGTON — A proposed 150-kilowatt solar array off Monument Avenue would provide net-metering power credits for a number of area residents, businesses and nonprofits.

The project, which is being developed by Power Guru Solar Electric Systems, would be located on a 4.5-acre parcel at 1819 Monument Ave., with the ground-mounted array to be set on about one-half acre of that site.

In a letter to the town planning department in December, Bhima Nitta, of Power Guru, said the site is located in the southern corner of a 237-acre parcel owned by Elizabeth Beal, Susan Beal and David Pearson.

Nitta stated in the letter that the site is "not visible to the public from Monument Avenue," and is "on flat, level ground with the nearest neighbor being about 800 feet away, and is naturally screened from view on three sides by mature trees."

On the eastern side of the parcel, the site is visible to the nearest neighboring property, 800 feet away, he said, "and can be screened from their view on this side."

The project has been reviewed by the Planning Commission, which found it complies with provisions in the town plan on solar project siting and related factors, and the Select Board later concurred, according to Assistant Town Manager and Planning Director Daniel Monks.

Nitta said this week that what will be called the Shadowbrook Farm Community Solar proposal "has been approved as being in compliance with the [town] Energy Plan by the Planning Commission and so endorsed by the Select Board. The land is under conservation easement by the Vermont Land Trust, who have provided their preliminary approval for the project."

He added, "We will be filing with the [state Public Utility Commission] in the next few weeks. We expect approval by late summer, with construction planned for early fall. In parallel, we will also be working on getting shareholders on board, with an eye on nonprofits who have expressed interest in the past."

Nitta said a preliminary application, or notice of pending application, will be submitted first to the PUC.

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Among other details Nitta provided town officials in submitting an application for local permits, the solar array would be in two row sections, 360 feet long, 12 feet high and 14 feet wide. The rows would be spaced about 30 feet apart.

In addition, no trees would be removed during the installation, and access to a Green Mountain Power pole connection 1,550 feet away on Monument Avenue would be through a buried conduit line.

No concrete pads or other permanent structures will be required to mount the array, according to the plan, and the system is designed to be removable at the end of the 25-year life of the project.

"Consequently, the entire solar array can be taken down with minimal permanent impact on the land," Nitta wrote.

He said shares in the community solar system will be sold to local nonprofits, residents and businesses "to help reduce their utility bills and meet their desire for a cleaner, greener Vermont."

The developer said he is confident the electricity output from the system will be sold to members of the community.

In a Jan. 19 letter to the Select Board, Jennifer Garrett, regional stewardship manager with the Vermont Land Trust, through which the Beals family has conserved the property's productive farmland, forest, wildlife habitat and other aspects, said the organization had reviewed the proposal and did not object to the use.

Garrett said that VLT had given the project preliminary approval and expects to give final approval once all required permits are in hand and can be reviewed by the conservation organization.

"In summary," she wrote, "VLT has determined that the project is modest in scale, will have no long-term impacts on the agricultural resources, and will be sited in a manner that will not affects the property's scenic views. Further, the generated power will benefit the local community."

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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