Solar New in VT

VSECU Goes Solar!

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VSECU Goes Solar!

Over the past three plus months, the Soveren team has been working on a 500kW Solar PV ground installation in Guilford, VT. The power from this project is going to offset the utility bills of the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU) branches across VT. Yesterday, October 25th, was the ceremonial “throwing of the switch” on site. With representative from Soveren and VSECU present, as well as the Brattleboro Reformer and the Commons, we celebrated this landmark event for both institutions. This is Soveren’s biggest installation to date and represents months of innovation and creative investments. We are thrilled to work with VSECU, a local not-for-profit credit union,  and to do our part make their dream of going solar a reality. You can read their full article...

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Should Agricultural Land be Used for Solar?

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Should Agricultural Land be Used for Solar?

Vermont Community Solar focuses primarily on ground-based solar arrays. These arrays require space, both for the physical array itself and enough land to the south of the array to ensure that the array’s will remain unshaded for the duration of the array. Over the course of 30 years land that could consist of rolling meadows and open space could be transformed; trees could spring up, buildings could be erected, power lines could be built, and all of this would affect the shading profile of that field. For this reason, it is important to ensure that enough land is reserved to ensure that these potential shading hazards don’t affect our arrays. Farmland offers the ideal venue for solar, as it provides the availability of building an array to the north end of a piece of agricultural land, with the land south of the array being farmed year after year, never allowing shading hazards to arise. Building an array on farmland, however, comes with criticism. Let me explain how we at Soveren feel about harvesting the sun rather than harvesting vegetable on land equally suited for both. As you probably know, Vermont is a rural state with about 80% of its territory consisting of forestland. The remaining 20% is made up of urban areas, farmland, and other land used for the pursuit of human activities. When we consider building an array, deforestation is not an option, therefore we must look within that 20% of deforested land for our site. Sure, we may fell a tree if absolutely necessary, but by and large our model calls for the preservation of the land our array will co-exist within. We feel our solar model can actually help the land in a few ways. Allow me to explain: The arrays are temporary installations, and the industry standard for an array’s lifetime is 30 years. Once the array’s lifespan has been reached, the poles we’ve driven into the ground to support the array can simply be pulled out. In the mean time the land our array occupies — which would otherwise be farmed year after year — is given a chance to lie fallow, given the soil a chance to replenish as wild, native plants are given a chance to grow and refresh the nutrient content of the soil reducing the need for petrochemical fertilizers to be applied. We can think of this as a sort of long-term crop rotation, where the harvest of vegetables is replaced with the harvest of energy. Alternatively, the land under the array does not necessarily need be left fallow, but rather be used to grow crops which prefer shade that could otherwise not be grown there, or allow grazing of small mammals such as goats, sheep, or even llamas (added bonus of not needing to mow the field in these cases), countering the nutrient-deplenishing practice of monoculture crops being grown in the same plot of land year after year, leading to soil degradation and erosion. In these ways, we feel our arrays are able to function symbiotically with the fields in which they reside; they allow the owner of the field to generate income they might otherwise seek through farming of the land, they allow the land to be replenished for future generations, and they allow for a host of different potential uses that could be employed which were previously less desirable or unavailable. For those reasons, we tend to disagree with the neighbors in Californias’ opinions expressed in the article attached. Neighbors: Solar farms will make land ‘industrial...

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The Future of Solar Energy Will Be Multifaceted

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When we think solar, almost all of us probably conjure up images in our heads of photovoltaic panels, and when we think large-scale, utility sized solar power plants many might imagine a sea of blue silicon stretching for as far as the eye can see. Certainly there are many solar power plants which live up to this image, but it is far from the only way we can harness solar energy to work for us. Concentrating solar energy using concave mirrors and harnessing the thermal energy produced is another way we can continue to harness the sun. Indeed, as we strive towards a greener energy mix — and eventually a fossil fuel-free one — we must use a multifaceted approach. Concentrated solar in the form of Power Towers will likely see increasing relevance. The reason concentrated solar has a large role to play will be in its ability to store the thermal energy acquired during the day for use during the night. Concentrated solar functions like most traditional power plants — from wood-fired to nuclear — in that there is a heating element is used to boil water into steam to turn a turbine which generates electricity. Power Towers are able to serve as essential enormous thermal batteries, where the heat (thermal energy) harvested during the day is used to maintain molten salt at incredibly high temperatures. The molten salt is then run through a pool of water where it causes steam to be produced, rise, spin a turbine, then be recondensed for another round. The thermal properties of the molten salt used make it ideal for heat retention and the Power Towers are able to produce energy 24/7 since their salt stays hot through the night. Additionally, since the generation of power is no longer coupled directly to solar exposure, but rather coupled to the thermal energy stored, it means that the plant’s electrical generation can be scaled up based on energy demands. This mitigates or eliminates the need to have fossil-fuel backup plants which can be put online when demand increases at peak times. Technology such as Power Towers will have a large role to play as we move forward into a clean energy future, unfortunately they aren’t something you can personally claim to own, nor will we likely see any homes advertising being 100% Power Tower powered anytime soon, so you still have a chance to get your solar bragging rights through PV and help us build the next phase of the clean energy revolution.  ...

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The Worth of Solar Power

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There is a growing understanding of solar power in the world, and as more investments are made in the industry the viability of this clean energy structure goes up and up. This combination, as well as a drive to move away from fossil fuels is spear heading a huge transition. In Vermont, net metering has taken off. So much so, that the exponential growth was more than even the Public Service Board and utility expected. Now there are new rules being created to make up for the huge changes that have occurred due to this growth. The rutland herald has written on this issue. You can read the full article here. Stay posted for the new rules and updates on the stars on net metering in Vermont. If you are still looking for panels in one of our community solar fields, there is currently availability in the Green Mountain Power Territory as well as Ludlow Electric. For more information call...

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A Farmer’s View of Solar

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A Farmer’s View of Solar

There has been some fine tuning of policies in Vermont as far as esthetics and sighting for solar go in the state. This comes at a time when the amount of solar installations have grown exponentially in the past few years. Recently VT Senator Chris Bray has brought the siting bill (230) in front on the Senate to iron out some of the issues that have come up. It has been our experience that farmers are more than willing to take on a solar crop and watch it thrive. This can go in tandem with haying and grazing or on its own. Recently an article came out in VT Digger about one Farmer’s point of view of Solar in VT. His name is Brian Davis, a dairy farmer, and he can see the benefits of this change in our environment. He see the value in solar power, but also sees the value of letting the land lay fallow and recover under a ground mounted solar array. He also references the benefit to the quality of water as well as economic benefits for farmers who do choose to site a solar farm. You can read the full article here. A few weeks ago we were approached by a student at Hampshire college who was looking for a solar site to test for changes in nutrients under ground mounted solar arrays. Her professor was under the impression that it may allow for a greater build up of nutrients. We are continuing in this research partnership to look farther into what changes solar installation make to our landscape. Stay tuned as samples are taken and studies throughout the...

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Stickney Brook Community Solar

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Stickney Brook Community Solar

Introducing Stickney Brook Community Solar in Dummerston, VT. There is still availability in this project. Call 802-387-5517 for a proposal.  ...

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