Historic Rutland, Vermont is determined to become the “Solar Capital of New England,” but it looks like the tiny burgh skipped a step and is on its way to becoming the solar capital of the US. According to the organization Clean Energy Group, the city’s new Stafford Hills Solar Farm is the first in the nation to repurpose an old landfill for solar energy, combine it with a microgrid and energy storage feature, and use it as the sole provider of backup power for a local emergency shelter.
If you recall the way Vermont was walloped by Hurricane Irene back in 2011 you can see where the state’s interest in storm-hardy emergency energy sourcing comes from, but emergency backup power is just one part of a bigger solar picture for Rutland.
Many Cooks In The Stafford Hills Solar Microgrid Project Broth
The Stafford Hills solar project is a pretty complicated one involving government, nonprofit and private sector partners, so bear with us while we sort out the players.
The project is managed by the non-profit organization Clean Energy Group through its Clean Energy States Alliance division.
The developer is our new bff Green Mountain Power, the leading electricity provider in Vermont. GMP has been very busy these days with a whole slew of cutting edge energy projects including wind power and manure biogas (one of our favorite topics) as well as energy efficiency upgrades for its customers. The company is focusing on solar power for in Rutland, which is where the Solar Capital of New England angle comes in.
For the Stafford Hills project, GMP brought in the Vermont-based company Dynapower to handle the energy conversion aspect of the project and the the turnkey solar specialist groSolar, which also has offices in Vermont. If you’re getting the picture, part of the driving force behind the project is to grow the state’s budding solar industry.
The energy storage feature is where things really get complicated. It involves the Department of Energy and our friends over at Sandia National Laboratories, who have been doing a deep dive into sustainability and resiliency issues, along with the State of Vermont and something called the Energy Storage Technology Advancement Partnership (ESTAP).
ESTAP is another Clean Energy States Alliance project, which it co-manages with Sandia.
First Solar Microgrid Project In The USA
If you’ve heard about the Stafford Hills project from other sources, you’ve been hearing that according to the Department of Energy it’s the first solar project of its kind in the USA. We’re still trying to nail the source of that info, but here’s DOE’s Dr. Imre Gyuk, who enthused in a press release from the Clean Energy Group:
This project provides resilient power during emergencies while benefitting the grid at other times. The technical innovations will reduce cost and make t he project commercially viable…. This is the perfect project! It has social value, technical innovation, and furthers renewable integration for the grid.
The Clean Energy Group goes on to cite several unique aspects of the Stafford Hills project, among which is it being the first all-solar powered microgrid in the US to provide full backup power to an emergency shelter (a local school in Rutland) within its distribution network.
The project itself will consist of 7,722 solar panels, with a combined generating capacity of 2.5 MW. Among other innovations the project also includes new custom-tailored multi-port inverters from Dynapower.
Don’t get to excited about the energy storage feature, though. It’s not pumped hydro, vanadium flow, or any of those glamorous new emerging technologies we’ve been hearing about. The system will provide up to 4 MW of storage, using lithium-ion and lead acid batteries.
Ground broke on the project earlier this week and completion is anticipated later this year, so stay tuned.
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