Petition Submitted to PSB for Coolidge Solar Project
On behalf of Coolidge Solar I, LLC, DRM renewable energy attorneys submitted a petition for a Certificate of Public Good to the Vermont Public Service Board to construct a solar photovoltaic generating facility of up to 20 megawatts ("MW") (AC) in Ludlow and Cavendish, Vermont. The project will be known as the Coolidge Solar Project.
The Coolidge Solar Project is a qualifying renewable power facility under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act (“PURPA”) that will generate approximately 33,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean electricity, enough to power over 5,000 homes. The Project will result in significant environmental, social, and economic benefits including 245 job-years, more than $15 million in labor income, more than $25 million in gross domestic product for the state, and nearly $4 million in state and local tax revenue. Additionally, the Project will generate an estimated $27.9 million in social benefits through avoided CO2 emissions.
With the closure of multiple aging power plants in New England, the region faces a challenging time ahead as it seeks to provide clean, reliable, and reasonably-priced electricity to consumers. According to the 2015 Regional Energy Outlook issued by the New England Independent System Operator (“ISO-NE”), the majority of electric generation resources on the New England power system today are traditional, grid-connected generators fueled by imported fossil fuels. At the same time, the New England states have all set ambitious targets and adopted corresponding policies to increase renewable energy sources, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and are also responsible to meet the carbon reduction requirements of the recently enacted federal Clean Power Plan. Vermont currently ranks 50th in total net electrical energy generation by state, and as of the end of 2014, hosted less than 10 percent of the approximately 909 MW of New England installed solar capacity (the vast majority is sited in Massachusetts (666.8MW) and Connecticut (118.8 MW)).
Fortunately, as energy demands for clean power have intensified, the cost of solar has dropped by over 75 percent in the past few years, quickly becoming the leading choice for safe, efficient, and reliable energy. Solar photovoltaic (“PV”) offers on-peak power at a cost that is in line with traditional fossil fuels around the country.
The Coolidge Solar Project will lower electricity costs and provide stably-priced power that is priced at rates favorable to the market. The Project will also help alleviate a well-documented gap between needed and available capacity in the region, and will help diversify the region’s clean energy portfolio by offering a well-sited, large scale renewable electricity resource.
Significantly, the Project is comparable to the capacity output of 40 separate 500 kW net meter projects. As a single facility, the Project arrays and associated electrical upgrades and road improvements will be consolidated at single locations, rather than being scattered throughout Vermont. In addition, unlike net metered facilities, all equipment will be decommissioned at the end of the Project’s life and the land returned to its current use. In this way, the Project is truly a temporary use, and will provide a meaningful contribution toward the state’s and the region’s renewable energy needs today.
The Project is well sited. The Project will utilize approximately 88.5 acres of a largely undeveloped 155.75 acre parcel of land located adjacent to the Vermont Electric Power Company, Inc. (“VELCO”) Coolidge substation. The site is favorable for solar development in that: (1) it is in a location that is largely rural and agricultural, such that while the scale of the Project will require about 88.5 acres, this represents only about .000885 of the approximately 100,000 acres of farmland in Windsor County; (2) it is located in a remote location that will have limited aesthetic impacts; (3) it will have no wetlands impacts or other environmental resource impacts with the exception of minor impacts to a perennial stream, which are mitigated by Project design; and (4) it is co-located with existing electrical infrastructure.
Additionally, the Project is consistent with and furthers the objectives of the Vermont 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan and the Vermont Total Energy Study, both of which emphasize the importance of centralized large scale renewable energy as a part of the Vermont energy mix.