CASTLETON — With MHG’s solar array construction to begin soon, Castleton University is one of the newest partners buying up energy credits. “Right now, we have a small solar array on campus, but that production amounts to less than 1% of total energy,” said Communications Coordinator Elicia Mailhiot. “Being a partner allows the university to have no start-up expenses while still supporting renewable energy.”
The project started several years ago, when MHG co-founders Pete Giese and Thomas Hand decided to start a solar company and find unique ways to stash the arrays.
“When you’re active in the solar industry in Vermont, there isn’t a lot of available ag(ricultural) land,” Giese said. “You end up looking for industrial land, reusable land, you start looking for creative projects that helps Vermont reach its lofty energy goals.”
So Giese and Hand began their search, and realized there was usable land sitting just next door in Rutland County, where excavation had been happening for more than a century. “Our projects are located in an industrial site on old slate tailings piles,” Giese said. “Pretty much not visible to the public, about as invisible as they can get.”
“Our Vermont landscape is so beautiful, it’s really important for us to work with someone who knows how to integrate solar into the community,” Mailhiot said.
Of the seven projects slated to begin this year, Giese said three are going in a series stretching from Poultney to Pawlet, on the properties operated by Newmont Slate, Greenstone Slate and New England Slate.
“Each of the installments is around 2,000 panels,” Giese said. “Each project will generate almost 1 million kilowatt hours in the first year.” Construction of the solar arrays is slated to begin this summer, with the completion predicted to happen before winter hits, Giese said.
“Really, it’s a matter of staging them,” Giese said. “We’ll have a couple hundred in construction in the next month.”
Mailhiot said Castleton is always looking for ways to utilize sustainable environmental practices, and college officials are hoping the project with MHG turns into a partnership with future opportunities.
“We will purchase power in the form of net metering credits over 25 years,” Mailhiot said. “Our participation will generate hundred of thousands of dollars over (the project’s) lifespan.”
Mailhiot said Castleton will begin purchasing net metering credits as soon as the arrays are up and functional.
This makes the college one of eight customers Giese said will benefit from their new solar projects.
“They’re a big user, so it’s tough to say how much (electricity they’ll utilize),” Giese said.