Dorset Park to Go Solar

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Wednesday November 21, 2012

Recent and future developments indicate South Burlington likes its energy projects sunny-side up. A solar array approved for Dorset Park is one of the city’s latest planned energy efficient projects.

Project Director Ilona Blanchard brought the idea to City Council in August, and at the October 22 City Council meeting, Council members unanimously approved a resolution to establish an umbrella renewable energy agreement between the City of South Burlington and Encore Redevelopment.

The terms included the following:

•  Establishing Encore Redevelopment as the sole representative and general contractor for renewable energy projects separate from any City initiative on City properties
•  Each project is subject to Council approval; agreeing upon a goal of a minimum of two projects a year
•  Setting a performance standard for projects that reduce the net costs of electricity for the City
 • Establishing a three-year term, renewable for an additional term.

The solar array for Dorset Park is a small scale project that will include six ground-mounted, 60-kilowatt panels in the area adjacent to the stormwater pond behind Cairns arena. It will have a 25-year warranty. 

“Generally, people are very supportive,” Blanchard said. There was only one member of the Recreation and Leisure Arts Committee who felt that the recreation land should be used solely for recreational purposes.

“We’re excited to have the installation of arrays,” acting Energy Committee Chair Marc Companion said. “We agree with others that it has to be in the right place.”

According to Blanchard, the array would not block particularly scenic views, it is not at an appropriate slope for recreation, and it would give residents a chance to see solar panels up close and personal.

This solar array project proposal first surfaced around 2010, but the Certificate of Public Good expired.

Currently, Encore Redevelopment is doing geotechnical testing on the area to understand the soil characteristics of the site. They need to determine how far down the steel racking system will need to be driven into the ground in order to withstand a wind-loading requirement of 90 miles per hour, Chad Farrell, principal at Encore Redevelopment explained. Actual construction cannot begin without issuance of a Certificate of Public Good, which City Manager Sandy Miller sent to the Public Service Board last month. Once the City is issued the Certificate of Public Good, and if the weather permits, construction can begin, with expected completion by year end.

Projected total cost of the Dorset Park Solar Project is $211,200, including $1,000 for interpretive sign design services, according to the proposal packet offered to the Council.

In October, the Council also discussed the Promissory Note for interfund borrowing between City funds—particularly the Water Pollution Control fund to the General Fund—in order to pay City costs associated with the Dorset Park project. Council members voted unanimously to authorize the Promissory Note and also to warrant authorization of an initial payment to Encore Redevelopment. The City will be under a 10-year loan payment period, but in the end, will reap the benefits.

After the 10-year loan, “The city gets the full value of electricity that’s produced,” Farrell said. In fact, it will receive over $250,000 of direct economic value.


Correspondent: Miranda Jonswold