Green Mountain Power broke ground in Rutland Tuesday on a new $10 million solar project that the utility says will not only generate clean energy, but also provide emergency back up power to parts of the city when needed.
Solar arrays are sprouting up all over Rutland County and some of the larger ones have generated a fair amount of controversy and criticism.
But Mayor Christopher Louras said this latest project has avoided much of that because it’s being sited on a landfill. “It’s taking a piece of property that could not be developed for anything else and is making productive use out of it,” said Louras.
The Stafford Hill Solar Farm, as it’s been named, will include more than 7,700 panels - enough to power 2,000 homes on a sunny day.
But experts say what sets this project apart from other large scale solar farms is that it will also include an innovative 4 megawatt battery storage system. Louras says in an emergency, that’ll enable it to provide ongoing renewable backup power to the hospital and nearby Rutland High School, which is a Red Cross disaster center for the city.
“As we saw in the 2007 with the Noricane wind event here in Rutland and then Irene in 2011, it’s clear that weather patterns are changing,” said the Mayor. “And devastating events are going to continue to happen and we need to have different models of energy generation and transmission in place.”
GMP President Mary Powell said that if the regional power grid is interrupted or damaged, Stafford Hill can be cut off to create what’s known as a micro-grid. Typically, backup power to micro-grids is provided by fossil fuels but Powell said this will be different. “Here, with this project, it’s all being powered by solar and battery storage. And the combination of those things allows us to operate this separate micro-grid in a way that keeps a lot of important areas functioning in Rutland.”
The project, which will cover about nine acres, is expected to be completed in mid December.