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Two Vermont companies are partnering up to create a solar energy and storage project in the former sand extraction pit off River Road.

Colin Flanders

As published in the Essex Reporter. MAY 20, 2018 – by Colin Flanders – Green Mountain Power and Green Lantern Development are building a 4.45-megawatt and 2-megawat battery storage project that will become the second solar array on an 86-acre parcel owned by Kimo, Inc.

Will and Victor Veve of Green Lantern received a certificate of public good for a separate 500-kilowatt net metering project late last year.

This new project will place about 19,400 panels within a 25-acre swath in the disturbed portion of the former sand extraction pit. The array is expected to produce about 8,000 megawatt hours of electric energy per year — enough to power the equivalent of over 1,100 homes, Will Veve said.

GMP project leader Kurt Shields said the company is pursuing this project and similar ones around the state to reduce transmission costs from the region. He explained those costs are based on GMP’s peak load — the most energy used in a single hour during the month or year.

By shaving that down, the company can transfer savings to customers, Shields said. One tool to do that is battery storage, or the process of absorbing solar energy when it’s abundant and firing it at expected peak loads later when people use the most energy.

“This is a way to supercharge solar,” Shields said.

The project will use a battery created in collaboration with Tesla that can store up to 8 megawatts of power. GMP can also use the battery system to maintain service during extended power outages or disruptions in a process known as islanding. Shields said that’s a new feature GMP plans to start testing next month.

“When this project goes forward next year, we’ll be able to exercise that muscle,” he said.

Projects governed by the PUC are exempt from local review, so GMP and the Veves don’t need the town’s approval to break ground. But the project did earn a letter of support from both the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and the Essex Energy Committee.

The selectboard decided to hold off on issuing a letter until the planning commission had a chance to weigh in last month.

The construction phase is estimated to last about four months, with the first eight weeks expected to bring the most activity: about 60 tractor trailer loads. The rest of the deliveries will be carried out on work and box trucks, Will Veve said.

Shields said GMP has five other sites around the state of a similar utility-scale size, and Will Veve noted the project will greatly bump up both Essex’s and Chittenden County’s solar portfolio.

That’s important as the state continues to strive toward a goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050, Essex Energy Committee member David Skopin said.

The project will also contribute tax revenue to the town, Will Veve said.

Skopin said the energy committee was “overjoyed” after learning of the project and its location.

“I don’t think we’d ever find one that is more out of the way,” he said. “It’s not used, it’s not seen. Even if [the array] made noise, no one would hear it.”

Unified manager Evan Teich members of the Essex business community have told him the cost of power in this region is higher than their competitors around the country. If projects like these can help address that, he said, then he applauds GMP’s efforts.