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Norwich Will Evaluate New Solar Array

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/10/2018 12:09:51 AM
Modified: 4/10/2018 12:09:55 AM

Norwich — Town officials on Wednesday will discuss making a planned 500-kilowatt solar array proposed for Route 5 north of downtown Norwich a preferred site for energy development.

Norwich Solar Technologies last month filed a 45-day notice seeking the Vermont Public Utility Commission’s approval for the installation, which would be located north of Patchen’s Point on Route 5, mostly out of view in a Norwich Fire District-owned gravel pit. The array of 2,160 solar panels would cover about 3.5 acres and generate about 830,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, the notice said.

Now, the Norwich Energy Committee, which supports the development, is hoping the Selectboard will designate this location as a “preferred site” for energy development to bolster the application before state officials and allow for financial incentives under the commission’s net-metering rules.

“From the Energy Committee’s perspective, this is basically an ideal site, because it’s hidden from view, it’s relatively close to three-phase power and there’s a willing landowner,” Energy Committee Chairwoman Linda Gray said, referring to the fire district, which is a separate entity from the town of Norwich government.

A draft letter in support of preferred site designation in Wednesday’s Selectboard packet includes signature lines for the Selectboard and Planning Commission chairs, along with the executive director of the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission.

Dee Gish, finance manager at Two Rivers, said the regional planners review whether a given project has “glaring issues” such as a location close to wetlands or a flood zone, as well as the project’s compliance with the regional plan and Town Plan.

Before it makes a final judgment on this case, Two Rivers is waiting on a more complete plan from Norwich Solar Technologies, as well as the go-ahead from the Norwich Selectboard and Planning Commission, she said. She noted, however, that “one of the issues in Norwich is they don’t have a current plan.”

Part of the reason for Wednesday’s discussion is that the draft Norwich Town Plan, where the Route 5 location is listed as one of four preferred sites, still awaits Selectboard approval.

Norwich has been without a Town Plan — a document that outlines the community’s vision for future land use — for more than a year as residents and town officials have debated how widely it could open the door for development.

In the absence of a plan, town leaders followed a similar process to designate 673 Union Village Road as a preferred site last year, Gray said.

Norwich Solar Technologies’ initial filing describes the project as a “500 kilowatt (“kW”) ground-mounted group net-metered photovoltaic solar electric system,” to be sited at the approximate address of 635 Route 5 North.

The company’s initial notice under Section 248, the Vermont regulatory process governing energy projects, says the array would have no adverse environmental effects, would not be visible from surrounding residences and would be “partially visible” from the road, especially in winter.

“The project creates a number of benefits with local, statewide, and regional significance,” Joel Stettenheim, the company’s president, said in the letter. “For example, the project will contribute to Vermont’s statewide renewable energy goals, and reduce dependence on out of state electricity sources and regional electric transmission system.”

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Tracy Hall.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.




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