On January 7, 2016

State’s largest solar project seeks approval

By Stephen Seitz

LUDLOW — The Coolidge Project (or “Coolidge I”), a 20-megawatt solar project developers hope to build in Ludlow, is wending its way through regulatory approval. It would be the largest solar project in the state by far; currently the next largest is 3.6 megawatts in Essex Junction. That project is comprised of 12,000 solar panels on 15 acres.The 3.6 megawatt array will generate enough electricity to power about 600 homes for the next 35 years, according to a WPTZ report.

The proposed Coolidge solar project would consist of up to 95,000 solar photovoltaic panels installed in linear arrays on both sides of Barker Road on lands referred to as the “Barker Farm”  near the intersection with Nelson Road and Quent Phelan Road, according to the Ludlow town website. It would cover about 90 acres on either side of Barker Road, which is currently farm land owned by Dan Moore.

In its August presentation at a public information meeting, Ranger Solar said construction would cost about $29 million, create 79 construction jobs, and three operational jobs after construction is complete. They estimated that Vermont would get $6 million added to its economy, and that farmers would receive royalty payments. They also estimated that Ludlow would add $3 million in tax revenue over the life of the project.

In its petition to the PSB, Ranger Solar said it has negotiated a 20-year contract with Vermont Electric Power Producers (VEPP) to distribute the electricity, and claims the following benefits: the project will generate $15 million in labor income and close to $4 million in local and state tax revenue and will prevent $27.9 million worth of carbon dioxide emissions, among other benefits.

The company hopes to have all its permits in place by next spring and to and be up and running by this time next year. Once approved, the company said, construction should take about six months.

Ranger Solar, based in Yarmouth, Maine, filed its petition for a certificate of public good with the Vermont Public Service Board on Dec. 14.

Ludlow Town Manager Frank Heald said some residents were concerned about the project, but that the state holds sway over its fate.

“There are some people who think a utility-sized scale is the way to go, rather than smaller solar arrays,” Heald said. “This project could have some positive benefits for the town, but the towns have very little say. It’s up to the PSB.”

A call to Aaron Svedlow, the Ranger Solar spokesman for this project, was not returned.

Ranger Solar also commissioned a study by Synapse Energy Economics, based in Cambridge, Mass., to outline the economic benefits.

“The Coolidge Solar Project is a small project in the overall New England energy landscape, and yet there is increasing recognition that a diverse portfolio of small, geographically distributed energy generators will play a significant role in transitioning the region to a clean energy economy,” the authors wrote. “Moreover, many of these projects contribute to Vermont’s economy in ways that fossil fuel-based resources cannot.”

Ranger Solar’s August PowerPoint presentation can be found at www.ludlow.vt.us, under the heading, “Ranger Solar.”

More about the project can be found at www.rangersolar.com.

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