COMPLETED COMMUNITY SOLAR PROJECTS
Acorn Energy Solar 2 (AES2)
A Community-Owned Solar Project in Shoreham, VT
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In 2014, we began working on a second Community-Owned Solar project (as a follow-up to our first 150-kilowatt project located behind the Middlebury Police Station, Acorn Energy Solar One, which began operation in December 2011). The second project, Acorn Energy Solar 2 (AES2), is a 150 kW solar array occupying just over one acre of land at 869 Watch Point Road in Shoreham, VT. Consisting of 612 340-Watt solar panels, the group net metered project is expected to generate about 249,000 kW annually, enough electricity to power about 30 to 40 homes.
The Energy Co-op originally filed for a Certificate of Public Good (CPG) for the project in November of 2015, but the application, along with applications for dozens of projects around the state by other developers, encountered delays due to the fact that Green Mountain Power had reached its statutory 15 percent renewables cap. Most of these “above the cap” applications, including AES2’s, were placed on a waiting list.
In June of 2016, after a protracted regulatory process, the AES2 application was eventually “dismissed without prejudice,” meaning that the Energy Co-op could resubmit it at a later date under a new set of rules and regulations, PUC Rule 5.100 for net metered projects, which went into effect on July 1, 2017. While this new rule made the site location and CPG application process more involved, time-consuming, and expensive, it offered the opportunity to proceed with plans for AES2 on the Shoreham site.
Our Second Application
The project had also received the support of the Shoreham Planning Commission, the Shoreham Selectboard, and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission. Consequently, the Energy Co-op resubmitted its CPB application to the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (formerly the PSB) on August 15, 2017.
We secured funding for nearly half of the project costs from Co-operative Insurance Companies of Middlebury. We also received approval from the Vermont Department of Financial Regulations that allowed us to use the Vermont Small Business Offering Exemption (VSBOE, also called Vermont Equity Crowdfunding) to market the project to local investors (the B investors) who provided the remainder of the investment needed. The B investors receive the project’s energy credits on their Green Mountain Power bills, and ultimately take ownership of the project.
The contractor for the project was, Aegis Renewable Energy of Waitsfield.
After we filed our Petition with the PUC, the landowners who own the undeveloped hay field to the south of the AES2 site indicated that they opposed our project. This was the first time that we were aware of their opposition. Several other owners of undeveloped adjacent parcels of land later joined in this opposition. This triggered a lengthy and complicated legal and regulatory process. The project opponents asked the PUC for, and were eventually granted, a technical hearing.
More than a year after we filed for the CPG, and after a lot of additional time-consuming and expensive legal process, the technical hearing finally took place on September 7, 2018 before a Hearing Officer of the Commission in Montpelier.
The Final Decision
Finally, on July 26, 2019, after a total of 710 days of regulatory and approval process, we received a Final Order and the long-awaited CPG from the full commission for our community solar project in Shoreham!
AES2 Construction images
With our CPG in hand, we had the financial closing with all the project investors on Friday, August 23, and site work began that same week with the removal of four large but diseased trees. The fire wood from those trees was donated to the Ripton Energy Assistance Program (REAP), sponsored by HOPE of Addison County.
In November, site grading and driveway construction were completed, and the solar panels and racking were delivered and stored on site. Hole drilling for the racking posts began in early January, 2020, and the array was essentially complete at the end of the first week in March, and was powered up on March 10. The official Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony took place on Saturday, March 14.
We are thrilled to complete this exciting local community energy project, and we thank everyone for their unfailing patience and support.