Growing Green Energy: Solar Energy Plant in Sharon Expands
John Talamelli, of Alfred, Maine, provides grounds for solar panel arrays at the Talmage Solar Energy expansion site in Sharon, Vt. on October 28, 2013. The new panels will be operational within the next two weeks, and together with existing panels, will produce 2.2 megawatts of energy. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Loup Boyer, of Portland, Maine, string wires groups of combiner boxes together at the Talmage Solar Energy expansion site in Sharon, Vt. on October 28, 2013. The new panels will be operational within the next two weeks, and together with existing panels, will produce 2.2 megawatts of energy. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Sharon — Expansion work on the 2.2 megawatt solar energy plant easily visible alongside Interstate 89 is expected to wrap up by the end of the week, according to an official with the entity that owns the site.
Kale Inoue, managing partner at SunGen Sharon 1, said workers are installing about 1,400 solar panels covering four acres in addition to 12 acres of panels that are already in place. The lot spans 37 acres, all nestled in the commerce park between Route 14 and Interstate 89.
Work started at the beginning of the month and should finish Friday, he said.
The solar installation qualifies as a “standard offer” project under Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program, known as VermontSPEED, which awards renewable energy projects up to 2.2 MW in size a long-term fixed contract with the state to supply solar power.
When the solar plant went online in August 2012, it was generating 2.2 MW of direct current, or DC, power, Inoue said.
However, Inoue said that when the state’s Public Service Board clarified later that year that the 2.2 MW limit applies to power that is AC, or alternating current, project leaders realized they had room for expansion, because 2.2 MW of DC power equals just 1.9 MW of AC power.
All the solar power will be fed into the Green Mountain Power grid, said Inoue who is also the CFO of Maine-based Talmage Solar Engineering, Inc . A 2.2 MW farm supplies enough power to generate more than 450 homes, according to estimates.
Meanwhile, Selectboard Chairman Paul Haskell said that even before the expansion, the solar farm had quickly become the largest taxpayer in town by paying $25,000 in annual municipal taxes. The solar farm joined the tax roll on April 1, and recently made its first payment.
The solar farm is assessed at $4.2 million and is the largest contributor to Sharon’s tax roll “fully by a factor of two,” Hasekll said.
“In terms of what this town raises to plow roads and run our library and that kind of things, that’s 25,000 new dollars that weren’t in the equation in 2013,” he said.
The solar farm also contributes about $5,500 in state education taxes, Haskell said.
The initial 10,000-panel installation was noteworthy because it utilized optimizing technology from Silicon Valley-based Tigo Energy, which specializes in fitting solar panels on uneven rooftops. Tigo was able to adapt that speciality into installing the panels on the lot’s hilly topography without the need to grade the land, Inoue said.
The additional 1,400 panels are being installed on a former railroad track spur.
Inoue employed a Massachusetts company for installation of the racking and other structural supports, in order to support the regional New England economy.
“It was a little bit more expensive than competing with the Chinese commodity market, which is pretty darn cheap right now,” he said, “but we’re part of the community now, so we should act like it.”
Maggie Cassidy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3220.