SHAFTSBURY >> Twenty individuals and families in Shaftsbury have banded together to purchase a solar array on private land on Buck Hill Road.
The 90 kilowatt project is expected to go online around the end of August, said Chuck Putney, one of the homeowners who invested in the project. The energy will enter the Green Mountain Power grid, and residents will see credits on their electric bills, based on how much they invested in the project. Some are hoping to eliminate their entire bills, said Putney, while others only invested enough to cover part of their monthly bill.
"There were a few individuals at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship who said, can we do this for our church?" said Putney, "and then it grew." One and a half years later, after extensive work with Bhima Nitta, the founder and owner of Power Guru Solar Electric Systems of North Bennington, the project is almost complete. The involved parties have formed an limited liability company to manage the project, and each member has voting rights.
The array is located on land that was not suitable for agricultural use on the farm of Curtis Merrow. Putney said that a project like this has many advantages over larger projects that are being proposed by corporations across the state. "A lot of these projects are sending those RECs (renewable energy credits) out of state. So, somebody who's a polluter in Connecticut buys these RECs, now they don't have to clean up their act, and Vermont can't use those credits in-state."
"They're not, per se, bad," said Putney on the corporate projects, "they exist on a continuum. But ours is modestly sized, it's not in a particularly scenic area, and we're going to have screening so that it isn't an eye-sore for anybody."
Putney said that they had discussions with groups who had put together similar projects in Rutland and Randolph, and also had the help of students from the Vermont Law School, who helped them tackle some of the initial legal hurdles.
Nitta, who has a doctorate in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Certificate in System Design & Management from MIT Sloan School of Management, has for seven years been installing and advising residential and commercial solar projects throughout the area. He has also been a project manager and energy consultant with Efficiency Vermont. His company's mission, "is to be the renewable energy solution provider of choice in our service area. We aim to exceed customer expectations by providing expertly designed and installed renewable energy systems, complemented by friendly, local and relationship-driven service." You can learn more about Power Guru at power-guru.com.
Putney said that the project still has room for more people to get involved, and that those interested should contact Power Guru at 802-379-9973. He said that there is a possibility of expanding the project in the future, and the group hopes to work with non-profits to find a way to make buying into the system more affordable for moderate income families and individuals.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.