Town recommendations about project need to be filed with PUC by mid to late April
A large solar farm is proposed for 635 Route 5 North near the pump house of the Norwich Fire District and above Butternut Road. See map below. The Selectboard is being asked to designate the site as a “Preferred Site” under the Vermont PUC Rules. The request by the Norwich Energy Committee is in the Selectboard packet under correspondence but is not a specific agenda item. Not known is whether the Selectboard will take action at its March 28 meeting, although notice to the public seems scant, at best. The site is a preferred site under the proposed Town Plan not yet approved by the Selectboard.
The project by Norwich Technologies will occupy approximately 3.5 acres of Norwich Fire District land and consist of approximately 2160 individual solar panels. According to the PUC filing, the “Project is expected to generate approximately 830,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year.”
By giving the site “Preferred Site” status, the Selectboard has in effect given its green light to the project. A municipality has limited grounds to object to the issuance of a certificate of public good by the PUC. If the Selectboard has any doubts about the project, it should ask those questions NOW. The letter the Selectboard is asked to sign designating “Preferred Site” status takes “no position on the Project's compliance with … Vermont law.” Although that preserves rights, as noted, Vermont law does not give a municipality much say on siting and aesthetics.
In addition, the 38-day period for the Selectboard to make recommendations to the PUC started running around March 12. [See Selectboard packet at pdf page 34]. The Selectboard might want to consider the topic in timely fashion, even if that means making no objection.
In its email, the Norwich Energy Committee says it "would like to begin the letter process for the preferred-site designation for these reasons.
Source: Google maps.