As part of our new website effort, we’ll be broadcasting our member’s renewable energy success stories, and collecting them here. We aim to show renewable energy in action around Vermont, and give people a tangible sense of how these technologies are already transforming our state. Stay tuned as we post more, and please get in touch if you have, or know of, a good Success Story we should post.
Ferrisburgh Solar Farm provides utility-scale solar power for the grid
This past November, developers Ernie Pomerleau and Brian Waxler brought the first 1-megawatt, state-incentive-supported solar project online in Vermont — bringing us closer to the possibility of clean electricity without dependence on foreign fossil fuels.
The 3,806 solar panel system, installed by REV Corporate Member Alteris Renewables at the corner of Route 7 and Monkton Road, will generate enough electricity to power approximately 170 homes per year. The project was one of a limited number to be helped along by the SPEED and Standard Offer programs, and REV Member Green Mountain Power agreed to purchase the power. The Standard Offer Program guarantees renewable energy producers long-term contracts for the power they produce, at a rate that makes newer renewable energy technologies like solar competitive with older, fossil-fuel-based power sources.
Local residents, including city managers, state representatives, and the nearby Vergennes Union High School (VUHS), voiced their support of the project, as well as satisfaction that the 16-acre parcel the solar array was installed on went to good use. VUHS teachers in particular are excited about the real-world study of renewable energy, environment, math, physics and other subjects, now available to their students right next door. The Solar Farm features an open-to-the-public educational kiosk, and has posted a public view website that tracks solar energy output.
The Ferrisburgh Solar Farm was designed to minimize its the impact on the prime agricultural soils it is sited on. The installation, which required no grading and minimal excavation, used support structures that can be completely removed, allowing the land to return to its natural state after the solar farm ceases operation. By using local contractors and consultants, the project helped support Vermont businesses, jobs, and the economy.
Now plugged into the grid and powering area homes and businesses, the Ferrisburgh Solar Farm is a point of pride for the community. And for the state, it’s an important showcase of progress in the right direction — evidence that the critical incentives approved by the Vermont Legislature will lead to more utility-scale solar projects, and to a cleaner, locally-produced energy future for Vermont.
For more information on the Ferrisburgh Solar Project, please see their website, the public view website that tracks solar energy output, or stop by the Farm itself, at the corner of Route 7 and Monkton Road in Ferrisburgh, Vermont.
Project turns waste into power, food
By Susan Allen – Herald Correspondent
With the push of a computer button, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy recently launched a first-in-the-nation project to generate electricity, food and heat from waste products.
“We know Vermont’s never going to be a major player in national or global commodity-scale, agricultural or energy production,” Leahy said Monday, speaking to a small crowd gathered at the Windham Solid Waste Management District’s closed landfill as part of an event to kick off the first phase of the Brattleboro Carbon Harvest project.
“But,” the senator added, “we might be the incentive for what they should be doing globally.”
Carbon Harvest Energy LLC, based in Burlington, develops methane gas-to-energy projects, integrating agricultural systems to convert waste into usable products. The Brattleboro project, which is being completed in segments, will first produce 250 kilowatts of electricity and eventually another 310 kilowatts from waste-produced methane gas at the landfill, heat for a nearby 20,000 square-foot greenhouse and 30,000 gallon aquaculture facility to be constructed on the site, an algae farm to create biofuels, and more.
Landfill gas, primarily methane, is generated by the decomposition of waste. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, but the Carbon Harvest project will eliminate emissions of methane by capturing it to produce electricity and heat.
“When I was born, the world seemed infinite on resources. Now we realize that resources are limited,” said Carbon Harvest President Don McCormick, describing the motivation of his company’s projects.
He observed that, when he was born, there were about 3 billion people in the world to tap natural resources; today there are about 6.9 billion, and when his sons are grown there are expected to be 10 billion people using the world’s resources.
“The model of extract and deplete, consume and waste is broken,” McCormick said.
McCormick stressed the importance of this project’s “systems” approach, where virtually nothing is wasted – and instead the waste is recycled to produce critical energy, heat, food and organic fertilizers.
Leahy launched the initial phase of the project Monday, re-starting the generator to convert the landfill’s methane gas to electricity, which will be fed to the local power grid. The next step will be the installation of a cutting-edge combined heat and power (CHP) generation plant to produce about 310 kW of electricity, McCormick said.
The project also calls for a half-acre greenhouse that appears in site drawings to be comprised of four long sections with truck access for loading and unloading, heated from the CHP plant and producing 100 tons of fresh produce annually for the local market and the Vermont Foodbank.
In addition, the aquaculture section will grow tilapia, McCormick said. Water from the aquaculture will be cycled through the greenhouse to water the plants. In this process, aquaponics, the nutrient-rich water from the recirculating aquaculture system is filtered and then used to water and fertilize the plants, without the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
The company maintains that when completed, the entire project will remove the equivalent of approximately 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
To see a schematic of how the project works, visit www.carbonharvestenergy.com and click on the “Projects” prompt.
John Sayles, chief executive officer of the Foodbank, said the fresh produce and fish — which provides protein — will be welcome. The Barre-based organization provides emergency food assistance for about 86,000 Vermonters annually through 280 food shelves, meals sites, senior centers, shelters and after-school programs. The Foodbank opened a Brattleboro distribution center to serve the southern Vermont area.
Carbon Harvest worked with a team, including the University of Vermont Extension, to put together the complex project. The company also received funding from the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and the Clean Energy Development Fund, and is partnering with the University of Vermont, Dartmouth College and Marlboro College on research and education programs.
“By nature, our projects are collaborations,” McCormick said, shortly before introducing several of the organizations and individuals who have been part of the project.
Vern Grubinger of the UVM Extension said the produce would be carefully marketed to ensure this project does not create competition for local farmers. He said he hopes a portion of the site will become a hands-on facility for children to learn about sustainability and the ability to recycle waste to produce energy, food and more.
Acknowledging the role of the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School, Netaka White, Bioenergy Programs Director at Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, pointed to Dean Mary Watzin and her research team’s involvement.
“This is an exciting collaboration between Carbon Harvest Energy and UVM,” White said. “Here we have leading-edge algae research with a commercial application. Their project will close the loop on the electric generation, with CO2 capture and sustainable biofuel production.”
The landfill, which is located just off Exit 3 on I-91, was one of the nation’s first methane gas-to-power plants in the 1980s, but McCormick noted that the project has ceased to operate in recent years.
Lou Bruso, chair of the solid waste district that represents 19 local communities, echoed Leahy’s comment that the Brattleboro Carbon Harvest project could be a model for New England and the nation.
“This is an example of what a small-scale operation can do,” Bruso told the crowd.
Visit Carbon Harvest’s website