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Hartford Clears Way For Route 5 Solar Array

Hartford — The town plans to put the closed and capped town landfill to good use by the end of next year.

Officials entered into an agreement on Tuesday night with Vermont-founded GroSolar to construct a 1 megawatt solar facility atop roughly 4 acres of the former landfill along Route 5 in White River Junction.

“I think it is a great use of our landfill and a great way for the town to get renewable energy,” Selectman Chuck Wooster said just before the board voted unanimously Tuesday night to move ahead with the project. “It really makes sense and positions Hartford as a renewable energy town.”

Selectman Simon Dennis concurred. “This is a step toward energy security, so far as if the grid were to go down it would give us the ability to give power locally,” Dennis, the liaison to the Hartford Energy Commission, said. “And this is a step in the right direction from a carbon emissions standpoint.”

All told, the benefit to the town over the 20-year life of the solar project — including a lease agreement and electric bill savings — could be as much as $440,000, according to a summary of the agreement.

As outlined, the town will use electricity generated by the solar array to offset municipal energy costs and will produce added revenue for the town through a lease.

GroSolar will lease the project site from the town for $700-$1,000 a month depending on energy production, meaning the town could generate up to $12,000 annually for the life of the 20-year contract.

The town also will receive a 5 percent credit for the power generated from the solar array, which at current rates is estimated to knock $10,000 annually off the town’s electric bill. The power generated won’t feed directly to municipal facilities. Rather, it will feed into Green Mountain Power grid for distribution.

GroSolar will own all of the equipment installed at the landfill site and will be responsible for obtaining the permits and constructing the array, as well as operations and removal of the project when all is said and done, the summary stated.

Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said after the meeting Tuesday night that no costs will be incurred by the town.

Messages left for an official at GroSolar weren’t returned Tuesday.

Construction on the solar facility is slated to begin in August 2015, Reiseberg said, noting it will likely wrap-up by the end of 2015. GroSolar must go through the permitting process with the state Public Service Board, but is exempt from local Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustment approval, Rieseberg said.

“I suspect they will go through planning as a courtesy,” Rieseberg said.

Though the initial contract is for 20 years, there is an option to extend the agreement for two additional five-year periods, and should GroSolar or the town wish to expand the size of the facility, the agreement allows for leeway to lease additional land at “prorated rates.”

The solar facility is about half the size of a nearby privately developed solar facility on Melisi Road, also off Route 5, which is 2.2 megawatts.

It is likely passers-by will be able to see the solar array from the entrance of the Hartford Transfer and Recycling Center — where the landfill is — along Route 5, Rieseberg said, noting that it won’t be visible from Interstate 91.

A different company looked into installing a solar array atop the landfill “a year or so ago,” but that plan fell through, Selectbord Chairman Ken Parker said prior to the meeting, noting that GroSolar also previously expressed interest.

Currently, the capped landfill doesn’t generate any revenue.

“It is a piece of land that sits there that nothing can really be done with so I think (this) is a creative and sensible thing,” Parker said. “It is really a no brainer.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.