Solar project planned for Rutland Town
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | January 29,2013
Rutland’s latest solar project isn’t in the city, but the town.
HelioSage, a company based in New York and Virginia, has applied to build an 800-kilowatt solar farm on G. Housen’s property off Seward Road. According to papers filed with the Public Service Board, the $3 million project will generate enough power for 111 homes.
HelioSage’s website says the company has built 400 megawatts of renewable energy projects in eight states.
“We were looking at Vermont specifically due to the state-level feed-in tariff program,” HelioSage director of operations Andrew Foukal said, adding the company first applied to the program in 2009. “It’s been a long time in coming. ... There was a lottery and queue and it sat in the queue for some time.”
He said they hope to build the project this year.
While HelioSage intends to build the project, Foukal said they will likely not run it once built.
“We are the developer,” he said. “We typically bring in a long-term operator that’s not HelioSage. Really, that’s motivated by the tax component — you have to have a big balance sheet and a large tax appetite to effectively use these projects.”
Foukal said he cannot comment on who the operator might be.
The project would take up 5.1 acres of a 12-acre parcel off Seward Road. About a fifth of that space is rooftop. Two and a half acres would have to be cleared.
“That is pre-disturbed,” Foukal said. “A lot of it is non-native species.”
The 10-foot-high panels will be at least four feet off the ground.
“The height and spacing of the solar arrays will allow for re-vegetation of the ground beneath,” according to HelioSage’s PSB filings. “Native plant material will be chosen for compatibility with the surrounding areas and overall aesthetic qualities.”
A 6-foot-high fence would go up for security and safety reasons.
“I think it’s important to point out one of the reasons we like this project is the land and roof have low alternative value, low alternative uses,” Foukal said. “HelioSage strives to site projects in places that are not prime agricultural land or other sensitive areas.”
Foukal said HelioSage is looking for other locations in Vermont to develop solar projects.
“We are excited about the state-level commitment Vermont has demonstrated to renewables and particularly solar, but I can’t disclose any particulars at this moment,” he said. “We want to do a lot more.”