CVPS provides $50,000 grant for solar project
SPRINGFIELD, Vt. - Making its second foray into solar energy in a month, Central Vermont Public Service today announced a $50,000 solar donation and a partnership to learn as much as possible about large-scale solar potential in Vermont.
CVPS President Bob Young symbolically handed a large photovoltaic panel to Christian Craig, executive director of the non-profit Southern Vermont Health and Recreation Center, in announcing the grant. The grant will help pay for a 73.5-kilowatt system containing 420 solar panels.
"CVPS is committed to learning all we can about solar potential on a utility scale," Young said. "Working with the Southern Vermont Health and Recreation Center, we expect to get some real-world experience with solar generation in an urban Vermont climate.
"This will complement our own solar project planned for rural Rutland Town. Together, these systems will provide us with extensive data on costs, generation and maintenance of large-scale solar in Vermont's at-times-challenging conditions."
The CVPS grant will help pay for up to 420 photovoltaic solar panels, each 3 by 6 feet, at SVHRC. The recreation center already has an extensive solar thermal heating system that heats some of its pool water, and will build the solar electric system on an adjacent building.
The total cost of the project is $587,000. The CVPS donation brings fundraising to $300,000. SVHRC hopes to begin construction this fall, with plans for completion in June 2009.
As part of a partnership to fully understand the project's performance, SVHRC agreed to allow CVPS complete access to the solar array, generation data and maintenance records.
"We're a major energy user," Craig said. "We believe this array will produce about 20 percent of our electricity annually, but equally important, it will provide CVPS with a real-world laboratory to study solar performance.
"CVPS has already made major strides in developing new renewable technologies, and our project will provide keen insights into solar potential in Vermont."
Young said solar PV is significantly more expensive that other electricity sources, but advances in concentrating solar and other ideas may help solar play an increasingly important role in Vermont in the years ahead. Larger systems provide some economy of scale, and solar component prices appear to be headed down generally, but one key will be understanding, based on real data, how effective solar arrays can be for utilities, Young said.
"CVPS has among the lowest rates in the Northeast and one of the cleanest power supplies in the nation," Young said. "Those are tremendous advantages for our commercial and industrial customers, and important to all of us. Our goal, as we face the end of major power contracts in the years ahead, is to protect those competitive advantages to the greatest extent possible. Solar may play an important role in that effort."