- CPG: January 2023
- Project Start: April 2023
- Project Complete: October 2023
In January 2023 we received the Certificate of Public Good (CPG) from the Vermont Public Utility Commission for a 500 kW AC solar array in Barnet, VT. Within a few months a groundbreaking ceremony took place, and work on the site began in earnest. The project was completed in October 2023. The ground-mounted system will generate enough renewable clean energy to power approximately 135 homes per year, and offset the carbon emission equivalent of almost 150 cars per year.
The Project Start
Milarepa Center, located off Route 5 in Barnet will host the array. Milarepa Center is a Tibetan Buddhist retreat named for an 11th century yogi famed for attaining enlightenment in a single lifetime. The center is an affiliate of the international organization the FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) and was founded in 1981 by students of Lama Thubten Yeshe and of Lama Zopa Rinpoche. They host both public and private retreats at the site.
Dawn Holtz is the Director of the Milarepa Center. She recognized the potential for solar to be a good use of the open field adjacent to the existing electrical transmission corridor on the property. This solar project offers a solution that aligns with the Center’s commitment to sustainability.
Holz stated, “As a donation-based non-profit, hosting the solar array will help the Center meet its financial goals for the next 25 years, and we’ll continue to have meadows for our use.” She also adds that “the Center’s unanimous approval by its board members exemplifies the Buddhist practice of ‘bodhichitta’ because of the good will that will spread through renewable solar energy generation for the community.”
Martha Staskus, Chief Development Officer for Norwich Solar said at the start of the project, “We’re looking forward to moving forward in collaboration with the Milarepa Center. They’ve been an enthusiastic supporter from the start and we’re glad to be seen as a trusted partner.”
The Groundbreaking Ceremony
On Thursday April 20, a couple of us headed to the Barnet location to participate in a very special Buddhist Ceremony that took place at Milarepa Center before the start of the project. The Center determined that day was ideal for the ceremony and that the 24th would be an auspicious day to begin the actual work.
Suzanne and Diana drove the company EV to the site and were warmly greeted by the Milarepa Center director Dawn Holtz. We brought flowers and a large tray of cookies for offerings. The Norwich team and other Milarepa guests were also joined by Karthryn from Greenbacker. This project, owned and operated by Greenbacker Renewable Energy Company, is one of nine they purchased from Norwich Technologies in 2023.
Everyone was invited to participate in the prayers and offerings to ask permission of the land and beings to allow the project to be successful. Geshe Tenley of Kurukulla Center performed special ground-breaking prayers and practices on the land, as advised by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, in preparation for the start of the construction of the new solar array project! We all sat in prayer and meditation in the farmhouse as Geshe Tenley read the prayers in Tibetan. Next we went outside for more prayers around a smokey fire that sent the message to all the surrounding beings. We each added an offering to the fire. For the last step we gathered in the field for a final prayer at the solar site and left more cookies as an offering to land and its inhabitants, and to take some group photos of course!
The Ribbon-cutting Event to Celebrate the Final Milestone
Work progressed smoothly for this project and within a few months it was complete. Final grid interconnection was made and Milarepa Center organized and hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday October 6, 2023. Members and friends of Milarepa, along with the general public and organizations that helped in various stages of the project were invited to join the celebration.
Dawn Holtz, Director of the Milarepa Center, stated “We are very excited to host the array here on our land and be able to contribute to clean energy production in the local area and to have partnered with Norwich Solar on this project. We are also so incredibly thrilled to share the many blessings and good bodhichitta energy present here on the land with the offtakers who will be receiving the energy that is generated by the array.”
Jim Merriam, Chief Executive Officer at Norwich Solar said of the project: “It’s been such a pleasure to work with the folks at Milarepa Center. Throughout every phase of the project, they have been a supportive team member which greatly helped the process of developing and constructing this project.”
Diana Wood, Director of Marketing & Outreach for Norwich Solar added, “Milarepa Center has been welcoming to us, and I was impressed by their frequent email communications to Milarepa members about the project. They show deep appreciation for the wider benefits of clean energy projects like this.”
Milarepa Center will host the solar array on their land for the next 25 years. The renewable energy generation credits will benefit four Vermont farms and dairies to help them save on energy bills through our Small Business Community Solar Alliance.