Biomass Rejected in Favor of Solar in Springfield, VT

-  by Susan Smallheer, July 17, 2014, Rutland Herald

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"229","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","style":"width: 333px; height: 200px; margin: 3px 10px; float: left;"}}]]North Springfield, Vt. — Out with biomass, in with solar panels.

Winstanley Enterprises announced Wednesday that it was seeking state approval to build five, 500-kilowatt solar arrays in the North Springfield Industrial Park.

Some of the land that will be used was earlier proposed to be the site of the ill-fated North Springfield Sustainable Energy Project, which was rejected by state regulators earlier this year. The biomass plant would have burned tons of woodchips a year to produce 35 megawatts of electricity.

The developers of the project could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

But according to a news release sent out earlier in the day, it is a joint project of Winstanley Enteprises LLC, of Concord, Mass., Green Lantern Development LLC, of Waterbury and Powersmith Farm Inc., of Guilford.

But according to the three groups’ news release, the five arrays would total 2.5 megawatts of electricity, and represent approximately $8 million in capital investment.

By comparison, the biomass plant was estimated to cost upward of $150 million.

“This is very exciting for us and for our potential partners/offtakers. The Springfield Community Solar projects are a great example of environmental economic development,” said Adam Winstanley, principal of Winstanley Enterprises, in a prepared statement.

Winstanley Enterprises recently built a solar facility in Brattleboro.

The release, without being specific, said that the solar power and “utility savings” would go to “local schools, municipalities and hospitals.”

Winstanley, whose firm bought the former Fellows Corp. building several years ago and rehabilitated it, defended using the lots in the industrial park for energy generation.

“We believe that community-focused net-metered solar is the highest and best use for that land,” the release stated.

Bob Flint, executive director of the Springfield Regional Development Corp., said the solar project would be going next to Winstanley’s business facility in the North Springfield Industrial Park.

“It’s not the prime land in the park. It’s where the biomass plant would have gone. The solar array will stabilize the long-term operation of the building,” Flint said, referring to what Winstanley now calls 36 Precision Drive.

“They have a very successful project in Brattleboro,” he said, referring to Winstanley’s 2-megawatt solar project along Interstate 91.

Winstanley Solar said it plans on filing individual project applications to the Vermont Public Service Board over the next few months, and said that the first project may be operational by late 2014 or early 2015.

There is already a large solar installation in the North Springfield Industrial Park owned by IVEK Corp., which was built in 2010.