Nick Bishop, Community News Service

The Bristol Community Solar Co-op is coming to fruition with a little added benefit to support Clemmons Family Farm.

As the Bristol Solar Co-op project commenced, Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (VTIPL) and the Addison Country Interfaith Climate Action Network (ICAN) stepped in to create a tithe program to help get solar developments underway at Clemmons Family Farm.

Acorn Energy (a volunteer organization) will be placing 1,694 solar panels on the site of the former Bristol landfill at 80 Pine Street. 20% of the available units were reserved for ICAN and VTIPL to offer faith organizations and their members a chance to invest in a solar future. ICAN and VTIPL purchasers were asked to donate a tithe (10%) above the purchasing price to help support solar development at Clemmons Family Farm.

VTIPL board member Richard Butz said, “our duty as people of faith is to do everything we can to protect creation.” Although there is the added benefit of lower electricity costs in the future, this is a project of stewardship and helping the next generation. Butz added, “I’m almost 80, so I’m not going to see much of a payout, but we have kids and grandkids and we’re worried about their future.”

Through the tithe program, ICAN and VTIPL were able to raise enough to purchase about 13 units for Clemmons Family Farm. The units will ensure clean electrical generation for a portion of the farm’s needs.

An aerial view of the solar site. Image contributed.

The project is broken into a single “series A” investor and many “series B investors”. The Series A investor, the Co-operative Insurance Companies of Middlebury, will provide about 27% of the capital needed for the project. The rest of the capital will be provided by around 120 separate Series B investors. Investors can expect a payoff in about twelve years.

All electricity generated will be allocated to Green Mountain Power. The revenue will be credited to purchasers through their GMP electrical bills.

This project is exciting for those who want to participate in a solar future, but do not have the ability to do it on their own land. Rich Carpenter, treasurer for Acorn Energy, said, “We certainly don’t want to encourage people to cut down trees” and continued to say the Bristol Co-op is an ideal situation for those who are in a condominium or renting where it would not be feasible to have their own units physically mounted to a building.

Nearly all units in the solar field are reserved, pending a bond issue in Middlebury that, if passed, would finance the remaining units. The financial closing for “series B” investors is set for September 10th. Carpenter said, “Our hope is that actual construction will begin by the end of September.” If all goes well, they hope to be generating electricity by the end of the year.

Nick Bishop, a student at the University of Vermont and a reporter for the Community News Service, a student-powered partnership with local community newspapers.