RENEWABLE ENERGY: Solar farm opens

November 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Developers promise power for 400 homes

ST. ALBANS TOWN — One of the largest solar projects in Vermont is up and running. The 15-acre solar farm near the Harbor View housing development will generate enough electricity annually to power more than 400 homes.
Joe Larkin of Larkin Realty owns the farm as St. Albans Solar Partners, LLC. At the official opening Tuesday, Larkin thanked everyone connected with the project before introducing his wife and children. “It’s about little monsters,” he said teasingly of his children, “and leaving a better future for them.”
RGS, also known as Real Goods Solar, a company founded in Vermont, built the project. Seventy-eight Vermonters were employed for more than 16,000 hours, according to RGS president Ted Van Zandt.
“Solar creates jobs,” said Van Zandt. “It also requires skilled professionals from a wide range of fields.”
Vermont is ninth in the nation for the number of solar-related jobs per capita, said Gabrielle Stebbins of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV).
Local renewable energy gives Vermont control over its own energy supply and provides energy with a stable price, according to Stebbins. “We are doing our part to make this planet a more livable one,” she said.
Another Vermont company, Draker, provides the tracking equipment for monitoring the solar farm.
There are more than 9,000 solar modules on the site here off of Harbor View Drive that provides 189,256 square feet of solar energy collecting surface, the equivalent of three football fields. The array is tucked out of sight between Route 7 to the west and Interstate 89 to the east.
The solar modules are together in long arrays fixed at a 25-degree angle. Unlike smaller scale projects in the area, these arrays will not move. Fewer moving parts means less chance of breakdowns and less maintenance, explained Branson Broadaway, project manager from RGS.
The electricity generated is taken to a collection box along a series of carefully located wires. From the collection boxes it is transported in underground cables to a transformer box and then to Green Mountain Power’s power lines on nearby Route 7 south of the city and town boundary. Green Mountain Power will pay Larking and St. Albans Solar Partners for the electricity.
“Maintenance cost for Joe Larkin is zero,” said Broadaway.
The entire system is monitored remotely and alarms sound if something goes wrong, explained Broadaway.
Although it might seem unusual to be opening a solar project as days grow ever colder, Broadaway explained the panels would produce a lot of power in the winter, despite the low trajectory of the sun and the shorter days. Cold reduces the amount of resistance in the wires, he explained, which means less electricity is lost as it’s transferred to the grid.
The angle of the panels is designed so snow will slide off the panels, especially as heat builds up, according to Broadaway. They are high enough off of the ground that snow will hopefully not reach the panels from the ground, he explained.
The solar farm was originally scheduled for completion in December, but construction was complete more than a month early.
Broadaway attributed the early finish to good scheduling. He said work was scheduled so contractors “weren’t experiencing inefficiencies by being in each other’s way.”
The original design of the farm had included a 12-foot road in the center of the farm. That was expanded, allowing trucks to deliver equipment easily to precisely where it would be needed, making for a more efficient project, according to Broadaway.
There is enough steel in the arrays to build the Eiffel Tower more than 96 times.
The farm will generate 77.8 million kilowatts of energy over the next 25 years and eliminate 123 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For comparison purposes, a 9,000-panel solar farm that opened on 25 acres in South Burlington in July 2011 will produce about 2.2 megawatts of power, enough for 450 Vermont homes, according to the developer.
In their application to the Public Service Board for a certificate of public good for the project, St. Albans Solar Partners included a decommissioning plan with a cost of $97,500. An overall cost figure for the project has not been released.

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