City vandals damage solar power array
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | January 31,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
City police and Green Mountain Power officials investigate vandalized solar panels on Cleveland Avenue on Wednesday.
Rock-throwing vandals damaged panels on a solar power array at the south end of Cleveland Avenue on Wednesday, according to Rutland City Police.
The five solar panels, owned by Green Mountain Power, were cracked by rocks that investigators believe were tossed from an elevated railroad trestle nearby, said police Sgt. John Sly.
There were no witnesses to the incident, which Sly said took place in an area known for its foot traffic.
“It could be almost anyone,” he said. “It’s a non-populated area that’s used as a shortcut or walking path.”
The $1,600 worth of damage to the panels was minor considering the expensive electrical components that harvest solar from more than 100 panels located in the fenced-in area, according to Steve Costello, vice president of generation and energy innovation for GMP.
But since the damage exceeded $1,000, Sly said the perpetrators would face felony unlawful mischief charges if caught.
The vandalism occurred less than a week after police arrested three teenagers for allegedly using a pellet gun to break windows in vehicles, homes and businesses in Rutland and two nearby communities. The criminal acts carried out at the end of Cleveland Avenue did not appear to be related to the other cases of vandalism, Sly said.
Costello said the panels would be repaired and returned to operation today.
Costello, who is also overseeing an initiative to make Rutland the “solar capital” of the region by using more sun power in the city than anywhere else in New England, also said the destructive acts wouldn’t deter the power company from its goals.
“While this is disappointing in that we’re trying to do something positive for the city, it doesn’t dissuade us,” Costello said. “I think the feedback we got from people who heard about the damage today highlights the importance of what we’re trying to do here.”