Local News

Stafford Hill Solar Farm promises to keep the lights on in emergencies

RUTLAND – Green Mountain Power began construction Tuesday, Aug. 12, on an innovative new solar project at Stafford Hill Solar Farm to improve resiliency and security in communities by generating clean energy that can be stored and used to power an emergency shelter at Rutland High School during a storm.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Stafford Hill Solar Farm is the first project ever to establish a micro-grid powered solely by solar with battery back-up and no other fuel source.  Stafford Hill includes 7,700 solar panels that can generate 2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 2,000 homes during full sun, or 365 homes year-round.  It also includes 4 megawatts of battery storage, which will allow for an entire circuit to be disconnected from the grid in an emergency and provide critical power for an emergency shelter at the high school.

“Stafford Hill is a major milestone in creating more resilient and strong communities throughout Vermont,” said Green Mountain Power President and CEO Mary Powell.  “As part of our commitment to provide reliable, clean and cost-effective power to customers, GMP recognizes how important it is to power critical infrastructure such as schools and shelters in an emergency.  Stafford Hill is an important part of that effort, as we will use what we learn here in Rutland to improve how we serve all customers.  With the frequency of major storms growing, this project is critical and demonstrates how GMP is continuing to lead the way with innovative energy solutions to meet everyday challenges.”

Governor Peter Shumlin attended the groundbreaking on the new solar project as part of his Summer Solar tour and praised GMP for leading with new energy initiatives like Stafford Hill.  In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, many communities were left with massive damage and families were displaced for extended periods of time.  Governor Shumlin pointed to the clear need to provide new energy solutions to keep the lights on and create self-sustaining micro-grids that can continue to provide power during storms and when there are widespread outages.

“With this project, Vermont remains on the cutting edge of the renewable energy front,” Governor Peter Shumlin said. “The clean energy industry creates jobs and is good for the environment.  Storing renewable power has always been a challenge, and I’m proud that we’re here today to take that next step forward.  It’s projects like these that continue to make Vermont the leader in green jobs.”

Another exciting feature of the project is its unique location.  The Stafford Hill Solar Farm is sited at the closed Rutland City landfill and is the first known solar storage project in the country to repurpose brownfield land, once used to bury waste, for the production of renewable energy.

Stafford Hill is another important step in the partnership to establish Rutland as the Energy City of the Future, where GMP pioneers new technology to improve people’s lives before spreading initiatives statewide.  The project represents progress towards the goal of making Rutland City the solar capital of New England.

“This project represents the kind of public-private partnership that has been so important to Rutland’s ongoing revitalization,” Mayor Chris Louras said.  “GMP’s Energy Innovation Center has already breathed new life into our downtown and inspired many of our newest businesses to open.  Similarly, this project is creating energy and income for the city on property that has no real development opportunity.  Equally important, projects like this are putting Rutland on the map in the renewable energy world.  That will have positive long-term impacts on the city and greater Rutland community.”

Dynapower of South Burlington designed special equipment for the project and the Clean Energy States Alliance helped secure funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.  Other partners include GMP’s Energy Innovation Center, Stafford Technical Center, groSolar, the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund, VEIC, and the Vermont Department of Public Service.

“It is so cool to see GMP and these partners help turn our high school into an area to help people by harnessing the power of the sun,” said Caitlin Laird, who is entering her sophomore year at  Rutland High School.  “I’ve seen the impact of these bad storms, and it’s great to see GMP providing leadership and creative ideas to help the community I love.”

GMP received a Certificate of Public Good for the project on June 15, and preliminary site work is under way.  The $10 million project is expected to be complete in mid-December.

“Vermont is at the forefront of an energy revolution. Our work to deliver clean energy is comprehensive and coordinated, as you can see from the many stakeholders and leaders involved,” Powell concluded.  “The future for Vermont is a bright one, in part because we are working together to build a clean energy future with innovative products and services, a more resilient grid, and lower costs.”

To learn more about Stafford Hill visit www.greenmountainpower.com/innovative/solar_capital/stafford-hill-solar-farm.

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