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Waitsfield PC discusses solar orchard

Members of the Waitsfield Planning Commission discussed the potential for a community member-owned solar orchard with Friends of the Northfield Ridge representative Peter Boynton at their October 14 meeting.

Boynton explained that a group of town officials and alternative energy experts participated in a conference call with Lauren Martindale of the Clean Energy Collective (CEC) the previous Wednesday.

"They're franchising their model outside their area and have done a couple of projects successfully; they allow someone who either doesn't have the resources or own a home to own some fractional part, one panel up to a larger investment," Boynton said.

Waitsfield Planning Commission chair Steve Shea asked how residents would share ownership. Boynton said the orchard is similar to a co-op; residents can own a share or buy multiples.

"If you move out of the area they sell yours to another person; it's not completely clear how it works if it's above 150 KW, and how the regulatory process works. Also, where do you put it?" Boynton continued.

When asked how the solar installation would be financed, Boynton said the community is responsible for coming up with their own model and the CEC funding maintains the site and bills the utility - in this case, Green Mountain Power.

"They don't come find you a site," he added.

Shea said, "So the company would get the tax credits. The entity owning and building and supplying the equipment takes the tax credit."

"The issue is where are the taxes being generated that you're getting the tax credit against?" he continued.

Shea said that the key element is figuring out the methodology to get the tax credits.

Boynton said, "There is a lot to work out, on the regulatory and on the financial side.

Waitsfield Planning Commission member Ted Tremper said, "It's good that someone can get in at a small cost; that is the only advantage to me."

Boynton said, "This is not a model for anyone to make money on. It's not a corporate model."

The next step, according to Boynton, is to get more specific information, looking into a management model, and finding a site that doesn't have a lot of obstacles. "I'm not a developer; let's see if it has the right ingredients," he added.


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