By Evan Johnson
BRANDON — A proposed 2.2-megawatt solar array just minutes from downtown Brandon is back for consideration.
A New Jersey-based solar developer has completed a petition for a certificate of public good, according to documents available at the Public Utility Commission. That same developer had proposed a similar solar farm nearby this past spring but withdrew the proposal after pushback from neighbors.
Conti Solar of Edison, N.J., plans to construct what it calls the Babcock Solar Farm at the intersection of Park Street Extension and Country Club Road. The solar farm would consist of photovoltaic modules on ground-mounted racks. The racks would be anchored to the ground with concrete foundations.
Components of the project include a 10.9-acre fenced area encompassing two arrays separated by a wetland buffer; approximately 8,000 solar panels lined up in an east-west direction, with 45 rows in the western array and 22 in the eastern array; a concrete electrical equipment pad located within the perimeter fence of the east array, including a 2.2 MW central inverter, a 2,2000 kVA transformer, metering equipment and other necessary equipment and an 8-foot-high perimeter fence.
The farm would link up to the electric power grid via a new overhead connection line with three new distribution poles to Green Mountain Power’s distribution system at a pole located on Country Club Road.
The project is set back 100 feet from the closest travel road and 50 feet from any adjacent property boundaries.
As part of the petition, Conti prepared a decommissioning plan for the solar farm. The developer would be responsible for all decommissioning costs; obtain any permits required for the decommissioning, removal and disposal of components; remove all above-ground infrastructure; remove all hazardous materials and prepare the property for reseeding or planting. The estimated cost of decommissioning the farm is $183,262.
The solar farm is the second attempt by Conti Solar to install a solar array at the proposed site. Conti brought a similar plan before the town this past spring.
According to the Brandon Town Plan adopted in 2016, solar developments are to be sited to avoid “averse aesthetic impacts.” The plan includes rules that developments be located below the horizon from public and private property and be screened by native vegetation. Large projects, according to the town plan, are not to be located within the viewshed of drivers on Route 73 or Route 7.
In a letter to the Vermont Public Utility Commission dated March 30, Conti Solar requested that it be allowed to switch to a new site in Brandon due to “significant opposition to the project from neighboring property owners and residents due to aesthetic concerns.”
At the Sept. 10 Select Board meeting, Brandon Town Manager David Atherton reported the town filed a notice of intervention on Sept. 9.“It’s similar to what we do with all of them,” he said. “We want to make sure that we are involved with whatever the process may be.”
The Rutland Regional Planning Commission (RRPC) is helping the Brandon Planning Commission create ordinances.