The city celebrated the completion of a 2.1 megawatt solar project located at the closed landfill on Airport Parkway, Thursday, November 16.

Landfill Solar Project Commissioned

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Wednesday November 22, 2017

It’s official. A public private partnership crafted to utilize unusable land, capture energy and save taxpayer dollars is up and running. On Thursday, November 16, officials from the City of South Burlington and the South Burlington School District (SBSD) gathered with project partners on Airport Parkway at the city’s Landfill Solar Project for the official ribbon cutting ceremony.

The South Burlington Landfill Solar Project is sited on the city-owned closed landfill, adjacent to the city’s Public Works complex, sewer treatment plant and the Chittenden Solid Waste District Environmental Depot. The project was energized October 11 and is now producing electricity. Prior to that, the closed landfill had lain fallow for nearly 25 years as it still contains environmental and health risks for most forms of use or development, with limited opportunity for revenue generation or public use. The project occupies approximately eight acres of the landfill, which was closed and capped in 1992.

“We are excited to be a leader in repurposing a closed landfill for the generation of renewable energy. This otherwise unusable property will now provide savings, energy, and opportunity for our community,” said City Council Chair Helen Riehle.
It was four years ago when the city began looking at the potential for this solar project. In 2014, with the passage of Act 99, the Vermont Legislature began encouraging this exact type of solar array siting - expanding the net metering program to allow for solar arrays of up to five megawatts on closed landfills. This legislation put the city’s landfill site on a level playing field with a typical greenfield site, and provided South Burlington with a unique and invaluable opportunity to utilize an undevelopable piece of property while securing considerable value for the city’s taxpayers.

“This project represents the type of public-private partnership that is so important to South Burlington’s continued development,” said Riehle. “By working with a local solar development company, Encore Renewable Energy, we are contributing to the local economy; and the project itself will create income for the city on an otherwise unusable property, while generating electricity in a location that is proximal to significant electrical demand.”

The solar array will employ Vermont’s industry-leading virtual net-metering program. The city and school district will receive net-metering credits on electric bills for specified meters, at a significant discount compared to their value.

“The 25-year contract will provide the opportunity for long-term savings and predictable electric pricing - the projected savings could be $2 million to $5 million,” said South Burlington City Manager Kevin Dorn.

The 2.1 megawatt project was developed by Encore Renewable Energy, a Burlington clean energy development company and certified B CorporationTM. Altus Power America, Inc., a Connecticut-based private solar investment company, funded the project, constructed it, and will serve as the long-term owner and operator.

“We are thrilled to have been able to assist the City of South Burlington in navigating this exciting project from its concept phase through to commissioning and active production of electricity. We are excited to see the project begin delivering real value to the City of South Burlington,” said Chad Farrell, chief executive officer of Encore Renewable Energy.

“The project will be one of the first of many large-scale projects we own in Vermont and we are excited to make use of this municipal landfill to bring real value to the city and its constituents.” said Lars Norell, president and co-founder of Altus Power America, Inc.

City Council Vice Chair Meaghan Emery spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony noting that the project is in line with the council’s commitment to environmentally and ecologically sound municipal and regional policy. She said, “From this site alone, the city estimates $45,000 to $65,000 annual accumulation of net metering credit value to offset our electrical costs. The council has set up a reserve fund to capture this offset and reinvest it in electrical upgrades and future efficiency projects. Joining two other sites in South Burlington, the solar array at Veterans Memorial Park and the Solar Farm at South Village, it represents the best of what public-private partnerships can accomplish in this city and elsewhere.”

Along with thanking municipal and government leaders and city staff members, Emery acknowledged the city’s energy committee. “This project came to fruition today largely through the tireless, enthusiastic, and exhaustive persistence of these very active citizens and advocates for environmental and ecological sustainability.”

SBEC member Don Cummings also spoke at the ribbon ceremony, expressing gratitude to the school board, fellow committee members, and city officials, including Ilona Blanchard, the city’s project director, whom he remarked has guided the SBEC’s work. In addition, he acknowledged fellow committee member Linda McGinnis, who was recently appointed by Governor Phil Scott to Vermont’s Climate Action Commission, “for her work explaining how this project would work and the benefits that would result for the city and school system.”

Cummings remarked, “Along the way, we realized that the net-metering legislation limited net-metered solar arrays to 500kW, but we had enough land for what we thought was a much bigger solar array.” Crediting Representative Maida Townsend for helping the committee work with the Legislature to help raise the limit, he added, “Unfortunately, since this project received its state approval, the limit of 500kW has been reintroduced, which will limit other cities’ and towns’ ability to take full advantage of these otherwise unusable landfill sites. I am hoping this limit will be raised again.”

While other communities have promoted solar on brownfields and landfills, South Burlington has emerged as a leader for other municipalities looking to pursue similar projects. Other projects are sited in Rutland and Hartford, while another project is currently under development in Brattleboro.