northeast kingdom

northeast kingdom

Brandon Boosts Energy Planning Efforts

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RUTLAND HERALD 05/18/18
By Susan Smallheer

BRANDON – Faced with an increasing number of solar project proposals, the town is establishing an energy committee with the goal of better directing energy projects in the future.

Brandon residents interested in serving on the five-person committee, which would be a subcommittee of the Planning Commission, should submit a letter of interest to the Select Board.

The board is expected to make the appointments at its May 29 meeting, according to Seth Hopkins, chairman of the Select Board.

Hopkins said the town was already home to five or six solar projects, ranging from the proposed Davenport Solar project, which would be one of the largest in the state, to a small town-owned solar array at the Brandon Industrial Park. There are solar projects in an old gravel pit and another in an old quarry, he said.

Hopkins said state law now mandates that town plans must have an energy component, and by having an energy component in the town plan, the town can more closely direct energy development.

Stephanie Zak Jerome, chairwoman of the Brandon Planning Commission, said she hoped to be appointed to the energy committee.

“We’ve got a number of people who have already applied who have the interest and expertise in energy,” she said.

She said Planning Commission member Michael Shank was heading up the effort to get the energy committee and energy plan off the ground, and he also hopes to be a member of the new committee.

“There’s a lot of interest in solar, hydro and wind – they are all the renewable power sources that need to be folded into the town plan,” Jerome said. She said the committee would be looking at town maps and eventually come up with a list of preferred sites for energy projects.

She said other Rutland County towns, including Rutland Town and Sudbury, were ahead of Brandon regarding the energy planning process.

So far, the solar project that has generated the most concern is the Conti Solar project proposed for prime agriculture land at the intersection of Country Club Road and Park Street Extension.

Conti has recently asked the state Public Utility Commission for permission to look for another site for the project, while holding on to its proposed power contract with state regulators.

The town took the unusual step of appearing before the Rutland Regional Planning Commission’s energy committee to emphasize their concerns about the siting and screening of the project.

Hopkins said the plan would address the energy issue in a proactive way, setting goals and preferred locations, rather than prohibiting energy development in certain areas.