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Norwich Farmers Market may get solar array



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 09, 2019

NORWICH — The Norwich Farmers Market would host a 150-kilowatt solar array at its Route 5 site under a plan to be presented to town officials and residents over the next two nights.

The proposal calls for White River Junction-based Norwich Solar Technologies to erect solar panels over the market’s vendor booths and its parking lot at the 3½ acre site. Meanwhile, Norwich residents whose homes aren’t favorably oriented for solar installations may be able to buy into another solar project involving the Norwich Energy Committee on a hillside off Union Village Road.

The Farmers Market land itself is owned by the Co-op Food Stores and leased on a long-term basis to the Farmers Market.

If Norwich Technologies successfully runs a gauntlet of town, regional and state hurdles, it would build the array during the summer and fall of 2020, Norwich Technologies chief technology officer Troy McBride said via email earlier this week.

“The renewable electricity generated by the project will be fed directly into the Vermont electric grid, and will help bring more electricity generation in the state and help the state achieve its stated goal of getting 90 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2050,” McBride said. “The amount of renewable energy generated … would be equivalent to a reduction of approximately 8 million pounds of C02 released into the atmosphere over a 25-year period.”

The proposed project follows a previous effort by Norwich Solar Technologies and by the Norwich Energy Committee to establish a 500 kilowatt complex spread over 3½ acres in a town-owned gravel pit at Patchen’s Point on Route 5 north of town.

To receive a permit from the Vermont Public Utility Commission, the developer needs a variety of town and regional agencies to send the PUC formal letters designating the property as a “preferred site” for energy development. Last month, the Norwich Planning Commission authorized sending such a letter on the Farmers Market plan, and the Selectboard is scheduled to consider it during its 6:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.

While Wednesday’s presentation to the Selectboard will focus on the regulatory logistics of the project, the Norwich Energy Committee is inviting town residents with an interest in community solar to a meeting at Norwich Public Library on Thursday night at 7.

“We want to get people to realize that this is a good opportunity for them to get solar,” Energy Committee Chairwoman Linda Gray said on Monday. “Unless you have a community solar option for people who don’t have a good site, how can they do it? They can’t.”.

The average residential household uses about 17.7 KWh a day, Gray said that 30 homeonwer could conceivably buy a stake in the Union Village Road site. The energy committee hopes to gain commitments to buy from at least 20 households.

The member-vendors of the Farmers Market recently voted, 28-2, to host the array if Norwich Solar receives the necessary permits.

In addition to providing cover from the elements to vendors and customers, the array “would be the first time we’ll have an electrified market, opening up vending opportunities we’ve never had before,” market board member and Royalton farmer Geo Honigford said on Tuesday. “Most of us see it as a win-win.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.

Correction

Norwich residents can buy into a community solar array that is nearing completion on a hillside off Union Village Road. The average home in Vermont uses 17.7 KWh of electricity a day. Norwich Solar Technologies in 2018 received the necessary town and state approvals to develop a 500 KW array in a gravel pit at Patchen’s Point, and the project is in the design phase.  An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the solar project available for community participation, understated how much electricity the typical home uses, and incorrectly described the status of the Patchen’s Point project.