Solar lease proposed for Waitsfield gravel pit

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Waitsfield solar array at the Waitsfield sand pit. Photo: Jeff Knight

Waitsfield solar array at the Waitsfield sand pit. Photo: Jeff Knight

The Waitsfield Select Board has received a proposal from Green Lantern to lease 3.5 acres at the town’s sand pit for 20 years for the purpose of construction a 500kW AC net-metered solar array.

The select board was scheduled to discuss the proposal with Green Lantern representatives at the board’s December 4 meeting, but that meeting was canceled due to an emergency.

Green Lantern, Waterbury, proposes to lease approximately 3.5 acres, including easements for access at the sand pit, for an initial term of 20 years with option extensions going out to 35 years in order to permit, construct, operate and maintain a 500 kW AC net-metered solar array. If the town were to elect to sell the property Green Lantern would also offer to purchase the property.

The proposed site of the solar array is a portion of the gravel pit from which the town has finished extracting gravel and has been grassed over and reclaimed. The town has several more years of gravel extraction from the pit.

The town-owned gravel pit is about 75 acres with an estimated 9 acres suitable for gravel extraction, Waitsfield town administrator Trevor Lashua explained.

The pit’s useful life, in 2011, was estimated at 20 years with 100,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of material available.

Select board member Darryl Forrest said Green Lantern had asked to be on the board’s agenda a month ago but did not show up for the meeting. He said that if the board were to consider the Green Lantern proposal, the town would probably have to put such a project out to bid.

In terms of payment, the proposal calls for leasing the property for an initial term of 20 years for $7,700 a year, with extensions to year 35. Years 21 through 25 would be paid at $10,000, years 26 through 30 at $11,000 and years 31 through 35 at $12,000. The proposal also includes a nonrefundable payment from Green Lantern to the town of $1,000 for considering the proposal.

According to the proposal from Green Lantern, the company would assume full responsibility for financing, permitting, site preparation, construction, operations and maintenance, and eventual decommissioning of the solar array, as well as taxes, insurance costs and other expenses, including solar property taxes paid to both Waitsfield and the state of Vermont.

Green Lantern will also assume responsibility for recruiting and servicing power-purchase customers (net-metering credit off-takers).

As proposed there would be no investment or expense required of the town nor any implicit or explicit requirement to participate in the array as a net-metering customer.

“Vermont’s solar siting legislation (Act 174) and net-metering rule (PSB Rule 5.100) have changed and there is now a strong emphasis on developing solar on landfills, closed gravel and sand pits, quarries, brownfield and other kinds of marginal sites. This site offers just such a possibility,” wrote Victor Veve, director of project development, Green Lantern Group, in the narrative.

The scope of work to be completed would include all permitting, environmental, electrical, civil and aesthetic engineering. Following receipt of the Certificate of Public Good, Green Lantern would commence construction and interconnection followed by operation, and would then perform the ongoing ownership and maintenance for the life of the project.