Vermont Towns, Schools Sign on for Discounted Net Metering Credits

Municipalities and schools in the 19 member towns of the Windham Solid Waste Management District in Vermont – which is charged with recycling, trash management, and hazardous waste disposal – are the first to be invited to take advantage of net metering credits associated with a solar array set to be built on the district’s closed and capped landfill, according to a January 1 report by the Brattleboro Reformer.

A 5-MW solar array is being proposed. An application for a Certificate of Public Good was submitted to the Vermont Public Service Board (CPG No. 16-0079-NM) on November 16. Any credits not sold off to municipalities or schools will be offered to local businesses, the Reformer said.

Just a few years ago, a 5-MW solar project would have been far too big to qualify as a net-metered project, according to the Vermont Digger newspaper. But last year’s expanded net-metering law (Act 99) contained – at the behest of then-Windham County State Senator Peter Galbraith (D) – language allowing a solar array producing up to 5 megawatts of power to be constructed “on a closed landfill in Windham County and treated as a net-metering system.

“It’s an obvious savings that comes to the people that live in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union,” Brattleboro Union High School District 6 board member Shaun Murphy said at a December 19 meeting. “If we turn our backs on it, we’re really turning our backs on the people that pay the bills.”

The credits are sold at a discounted rate – and are anticipated to yield substantial savings. A first-year savings of $70,092 is expected for the high school district. Altogether, over 20 years, that figure is anticipated to be about $1.87 million.

Under the terms of the agreement, the regional high school district will still continue to pay 20 percent of its power bill through the incumbent utility, Green Mountain Power. Windham South Business Administrator Frank Rucker told the Reformer that the remaining 80 percent would be paid to Sky Solar, a Hong-Kong-based company that bills itself as “an international solar park developer.” If the district’s use of power were to decrease to a point below 80 percent of its current usage, the district could find another “off-taker” to purchase the net-metering credits.

The towns of Wardsboro and Vernon also have signed on to receive net-metering credits.

In part because of a fluctuating market for recyclables, Windham Solid Waste has had budget troubles in recent years, according to the Vermont Digger. Member towns pay an annual assessment, but officials also have been searching for new forms of revenue. Now, the Waste Management District expects to receive about $100,000 in annual lease payments.

Approval of the CPG from the Vermont Public Service Board could happen as early as March or April; then, construction could begin next summer.

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