A First of It’s Kind Mixed-use Community Residential and Commercial Project
The Norwich Union Village Solar Project (NUVSP) in Vermont went online in August. It is a mixed-use community residential and commercial project, half owned by a total of sixteen households within the community and half by an investor. It was designed, permitted, built, and will be operated by Norwich Solar Technologies (NST).
NUVSP is one of only a few mixed residential and commercial community solar projects in Vermont. One earlier project was the subject of a Green Energy Times article, “Thetford Strafford Community Solar,” in its October, 2018 issue (http://bit.ly/Thetford-Strafford).
The residential community members who signed on to the project were participants in a Solarize Norwich campaign that was promoted by the Norwich Energy Committee (NEC). Linda Gray, a NEC member, told us that Norwich has done a Solarize Norwich campaign every year since 2012, typically seeing 25 to 30 households get solar systems as a result. The Town of Norwich has one of the highest percentages (25%) of households (325 out of 1300) that have adopted solar. She had praise for NST saying, “I want to give credit to Troy McBride and Norwich Solar Technologies for their willingness to give this project so much time and for their patience.” She said that developing a mixed-use community solar project is more difficult than simpler solar systems because of all the different coordination that has to be done.
As one of NST’s Community Impact Investors, Paul Bozuwa worked with NST to set up a limited liability corporation as the investor for the commercial half of NUVSP. It is supplying electricity credits from the project to the Norwich Fire District and the Town of Fairlee through net-metering. Because the solar credits are being sold under a long-term contract to municipal entities, the investment is considered to be low risk and qualify for low bank interest rates. Bozuwa said that one of the things that attracted him to the project was that the off-takers, owners, builders, and others involved were local to the Norwich area.
Mascoma Bank provided financing for the commercial half of the project and several households. Mascoma is a B-Corp, set up for public benefit. It has significant experience with financing both residential and commercial solar systems, a fact that can benefit customers a great deal.
Troy McBride, the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Norwich Solar Technologies, told us a bit about the array itself. NUVSP has 648 solar panels made by Risen Energy. Each panel is rated to produce 330 watts. It has twelve Fronius inverters. The array is rated at 150 kilowatts (AC).
The solar photovoltaic system is located on a little hillside. It is set back about 1000 feet from Union Village Road and is mostly out of view because of trees that grow along the road and hillside. McBride described the system as having “great solar exposure without being highly visible.” At the request of the owners of the land, the electric lines carrying power from the array to the electric grid connection were buried, putting them not only out of sight, but out of harm’s way. Brite-Lite Electric and Green Mountain Power worked together to complete the 1000-foot underground interconnection.
Linda Gray mentioned that there was no ribbon cutting for the mixed-use system. Instead, McBride gave a tour to the owners soon after the array began delivering electricity to the grid. And now, the sun has taken up its role of providing clean electricity to all involved.