Community Solar in the Connecticut River Valley

Newbury Vermont Solar project Ribbon Cutting

by George Harvey
Green Energy Times
January 15, 2020

Norwich Solar (NS) has continued to move ahead with its community solar installations in Vermont. Some of that has been done with the help of its Community Impact Investor Group, which is made up of local impact investors, who like to see their investments go beyond just earning profits to help their communities with positive local impacts.

NST has been cultivating local impact investing as a way to get solar power to people and organizations that could not otherwise afford it. In doing so, it is developing an organization of experienced investors. Some beneficiaries are local people, ordinary citizens, but the benefits also flow to non-profit organizations, local governments, and schools.

In November 2019, NST had ribbon cuttings for two arrays. One of these was on November 15, for the Newbury Scotch Hollow array, and the other, on November 23, was for a mixed-use array in Thetford.

Newbury School & Town

The Newbury Scotch Hollow array is a ground-mounted system with 648 solar modules of 345 watts each, for a DC total capacity of 223.56 kilowatts (kW). The power goes through three CPS 50-kW AC 3-Phase Inverters with AlsoEnergy monitoring.

This array was built on the site of a former town sandpit. This is what is called “preferred siting,” because the land would be of very little value for other purposes.

The Town of Newbury and the Newbury Elementary School both benefit from the solar array because it will decrease their energy costs under net metering through discounts on energy credits. Throughout the term of the 25-year agreement, the school will take about 50% of the net-metering credits, and these are expected to save it about $3,000 per year. The town will save less because it will only take 15% of the credits, but it will have the added benefit of $1,300 per year of tax and lease revenue. There was no up-front cost to the town or school.

Another major beneficiary of the project is Upper Valley Haven. Please see the article on page 9 of this issue.

A number of people spoke at the ribbon-cutting. Among them were NST president Joel Stettenheim, Upper Valley Haven Executive Director Michael Redmond, and community impact investors Allan Wieman and Jo Shute.

Thetford Community Solar 2 1024x768 1One person who spoke was Vermont State Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas. When we contacted her, she told us, “Often, when we pass bills in Montpelier, we wait years to see a direct positive impact. This solar project, right in our backyard, benefits the Town of Newbury, Newbury Elementary School, and the Upper Valley Haven, providing clean, renewable electricity for years to come. And it’s made possible by a bill that was signed into law in 2019.” She was referring to Act 81, which she sponsored, and which raised the capacity limit for schools from 500 kW to 1,000 kW. She gave particular credit to a high school intern, Ginger Knight, who went to the statehouse every week advocating for the bill’s passage.

The second ribbon cutting was for Thetford Community Solar (TCS) for their 150 kW-AC community solar array. The array was installed by NTC and Wolfe Energy. This array is 100% community-owned, with benefits going to shareholders along with two non-profits, Thetford Library Federation and the Thetford Water Co-op. TCS is a member-owned company. Having built the community solar array, it will continue to operate it with all Renewable Energy Credits to be retired by Green Mountain Power. The solar photovoltaic (PV) system is expected to generate about 270,000 kilowatt-hours per year.

The TCS project was conducted with care to make the best use of local contractors and equipment suppliers in Vermont and New Hampshire subcontractors and equipment suppliers, fostering local economic activity and capacity development.

The project members have purchased shares, each of which represents three PV modules. Shareholders receive about 85% of the credits generated on their utility bills, with the remaining 15% credited to the non-profits. The project is fully subscribed.

Norwich Solar Technology’s web site is