Largest solar array built in Vermont covers 150 acres

Large-scale solar “farms” are becoming the norm across the country. COURTESY PHOTO

The trees have been cleared and safety areas have been created for the state’s largest solar project — located on Barker Road in Ludlow and Cavendish.

The Coolidge Solar Project, owned by NextEra Energy, will generate 20-megawatts of energy, which is four times larger than any other solar operation in Vermont.

Construction started in May. About 175 employees are expected to arrive in August to help complete the project, which includes 83,000 solar panels, by November. 

The project covers 150-acres in Ludlow and Cavendish. The renewable energy tax credits it generates will go to Connecticut utility companies.

“It’s a big, big project,” said Ludlow Municipal Manager Scott Murphy.

The project was first presented in 2015. It was approved by the Ludlow Select Board in December 2015, after the company reached an agreement with the board. As part of the agreement, the town will receive $100,000 when construction is complete in November and Ludlow Elementary School will receive $75,000 to replace bleachers this year. Going forward, the town will receive $35,000 a year for the first five years of the project and then $25,000 a year after that.

Murphy said the town has already used the $100,000 it is expected to receive this year to repave Main Street.

The Catamount project was initiated by Ranger Solar and then NextEra Energy purchased Ranger Solar in February 2017. 

Vermont’s goal is to have 90 percent of the energy in the state being produced by renewable sources by 2050.

NextEra Energy, which calls itself the “world’ largest utility company,” has solar, wind and nuclear projects in Canada and the U.S. The company’s largest sites, which produce 250 MW, are located in California and Arizona. NextEra has four other projects in Vermont that are in early stages of development and permitting. Though the Catamount project will be the largest in the state, it may not be for long. Earlier this year Randolph Center Solar, a subsidiary company of NextEra, proposed a similar size 20 MW array in Randolph, Vermont. 

“The New England states, including Vermont, have aggressive targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and new clean energy production,” said Nextera Energy spokesperson Steven Stengel. “Large-scale solar is among the best technologies to meet these policy goals.” 

Blattner Energy is the construction engineer for the project. Stengel said the location off Barker Road was ideal because of its flat terrain.

Most of the project is in Ludlow, though part of it crosses the town line in Cavendish.

Ludlow recently had an emergency management meeting at the site with the Ludlow fire, police, and ambulance departments and town administration to prepare for any emergencies that could happen as the bulk of construction begins. 

Murphy was anticipating short-term economic benefits to the town as the construction crews arrive.

“It’s going well as far as the town is concerned,” said Murphy. “They are bringing a lot of people to the town and hopefully the town will benefit from it.”

-- KATY SAVAGE
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