Residents upset about new solar farm proposal
By Brent Curtis
Staff Writer | July 07,2014
Albert J. marro / Staff Photo
Some 58 acres of land on the north side of a stone wall off the Cold River Road in Rutland Town is being considered for a new solar farm. The proposal calls for 45,000 panels.
A proposed solar energy project on Cold River Road in Rutland Town has outraged residents living nearby.
No, not the controversial 9,762-panel, 2.3-megawatt solar farm proposed on a 24-acre parcel of open land at the corner of Cold River and Stratton roads.
A new proposal introduced last week for a solar array that would sit right next to that site is bigger. Much, much bigger.
Proposed on a 55.9-acre wooded lot just south of the other intended solar site, the Minneapolis, Minn., based company ECOS Energy has submitted plans calling for 45,000 solar panels that would produce 12 megawatts of electricity.
“It’s three times bigger than the one already planned down there and three times bigger than the one in Clarendon,” Town administrator Joseph Zingale said. “They would need to clear that entire wooded area and then cover every inch of it with solar panels.”
The parcel, owned by Cheryl Mondella, runs east to west from Hubbard Farm on Cold River Road to the edge of the GE Company plant on Windcrest Road and extends north almost to the edge of the other proposed solar site. The two solar installations would only be separated by a 132-foot-wide strip of land occupied by a home at 1999 Cold River Road, Zingale said.
No request for a certificate of public good has been submitted to the state’s Public Service Board, which has jurisdiction over all energy projects in the state.
But Zingale said last week that the town has received requests from the Minnesota company for a 911 number at the site and for a pair of curb cuts onto the industrial and commercially designated property from Cold River Road.
Unlike the other proposed solar site on Cold River Road, which would be located in a relatively flat basin at the bottom of a hill, the new design would run uphill. Other differences between the two designs are buffer zones and landscaping designed to screen the solar arrays.
groSolar, which has a pending application before the Public Service Board for the smaller array, will only develop about 15 acres of the 24-acre site to work around wetland on the property and to allow room for plantings and wildlife fencing designed to obscure views of the facility from the street level.
Drawings submitted to the town for the new site show no buffer area or landscaping. A representative with ECOS Energy could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Who ECOS would sell their electricity to is also unclear. While groSolar is working with Green Mountain Power, a spokesman with GMP said last week his company had only recently learned of the project and was not involved with it.
“We’ve got nothing to do with that proposal,” GMP spokesman Steve Costello said.
Neighbors on Cold River Road have protested the groSolar project on the grounds that no amount of screening would shield the facility from hillside views.
Their protests about the new proposal were even more pronounced.
“I don’t like it at all,” said Joe Romeo, whose home sits at the intersection of Cold and Stratton roads. “People who come to Vermont don’t want to see that. They want to see deer and birds.”
His neighbor, Charlie Flanders, who has lived 28 years in a historic farmhouse across the street from the site groSolar intends to build on, said the Minnesota company’s designs would transform his entire western view.
“It’s rather disturbing to think I’m going to be looking at wall to wall solar panels,” he said. “I’m not against solar but it’s upsetting when you have it in your face.”
David Fucci, whose hilltop home overlooks both proposed solar sites, said he blamed the state for sending a laissez-faire message to solar developers.
“They’ve basically said ‘It doesn’t matter where you want it, we’ll approve them,’” Fucci said. “How else do you interpret a state that has yet to deny a single solar proposal? Not one has ever been rejected so no wonder they’re coming here from all over the country. There’s no balance here, for crying out loud.”