NORWICH — The Norwich Farmers Market would host a 150-kilowatt solar array at its Route 5 site under a plan to be presented to town officials and residents over the next two nights.
The proposal calls for White River Junction-based Norwich Solar Technologies to erect solar panels over the market’s vendor booths and its parking lot at the 3½ acre site, with Norwich residents whose homes aren’t favorably oriented for solar installations able to buy into the project.
The land itself is owned by the Co-op Food Stores and leased on a long-term basis to the Farmers Market.
If Norwich Technologies successfully runs a gauntlet of town, regional and state hurdles, it would build the array during the summer and fall of 2020, Norwich Technologies chief technology officer Troy McBride said via email earlier this week.
“The renewable electricity generated by the project will be fed directly into the Vermont electric grid, and will help bring more electricity generation in the state and help the state achieve its stated goal of getting 90 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2050,” McBride said. “The amount of renewable energy generated … would be equivalent to a reduction of approximately 8 million pounds of C02 released into the atmosphere over a 25-year period.”
The proposed project follows a previous, unsuccessful effort by Norwich Solar Technologies and by the Norwich Energy Committee to establish a 500 kilowatt complex spread over 3½ acres in a town-owned gravel pit at Patchen’s Point on Route 5 north of town.
To receive a permit from the Vermont Public Utility Commission, the developer needs a variety of town and regional agencies to send the PUC formal letters designating the property as a “preferred site” for energy development. Last month, the Norwich Planning Commission authorized sending such a letter on the Farmers Market plan, and the Selectboard is scheduled to consider it during its 6:30 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. The Selectboard last spring deadlocked, 2-2, on whether to sign a similar letter for the Patchen’s Point project.
While Wednesday’s presentation to the Selectboard will focus on the regulatory logistics of the project, the Norwich Energy Committee is inviting town residents with an interest in community solar to a meeting at Norwich Public Library on Thursday night at 7.
“We want to get people to realize that this is a good opportunity for them to get solar,” Energy Committee Chairwoman Linda Gray said on Monday. “Unless you have a community solar option for people who don’t have a good site, how can they do it? They can’t.”.
Noting that the average residential household uses about 5 kWh a day, Gray said that 30 of them could conceivably buy a stake in the Farmers Market site. The energy committee hopes to gain commitments to buy from at least 20 households.
The member-vendors of the Farmers Market recently voted, 28-2, to host the array if Norwich Solar receives the necessary permits.
In addition to providing cover from the elements to vendors and customers, the array “would be the first time we’ll have an electrified market, opening up vending opportunities we’ve never had before,” market board member and Royalton farmer Geo Honigford said on Tuesday. “Most of us see it as a win-win.”
David Corriveau can be reached at email@example.com and at 603-727-3304.