Acorn Energy Co-op’s third community solar project moving forward

BRISTOL, Vt. – Fundraising for an innovative local community-owned solar project in Bristol under development by the Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op of Middlebury is moving forward. The proposed project, Bristol Community Solar (BCS), will be a 500 kW solar array on the capped former municipal landfill located off Pine Street in Bristol.

Acorn Energy Co-op is offering shares in the Bristol project to Vermont residents with an electric meter in the Green Mountain Power (GMP) service territory who are (or become) members of Acorn Energy Co-op. These investors will receive the project’s net metered credits on their GMP bills, and ultimately take ownership of the project.

“If we are successful, we will have local investment, ownership, and management of a solar array developed in cooperation with the host community, and we will have made the most of a brownfields redevelopment opportunity as well. There are multiple winners all around, says Acorn Energy Co-op President Benjamin Marks. “We hope that the installed price per watt of the array will also be attractive for prospective participants,”

The Bristol landfill is ideal for solar development since it has good solar exposure from the south and cannot be seen from public streets and neighborhood homes. In addition, this type of “brownfield” site receives favorable treatment from Vermont’s energy permitting and approval agencies. Acorn Energy Co-op applied for a Certificate of Public Good for the project from the Public Utility Commission in December 2020. The CPG was issued by the Commission on April 1, 2021.

Acorn Energy Co-op, and Aegis Renewable Energy of Waitsfield (Acorn Energy’s contractor), have developed the plan for the approximately $1.8 million Bristol project. The Bristol Community Solar design calls for 1,694 solar panels, 440 watts each, which will cover a little over three acres of undulating terrain on the 12-acre capped Bristol landfill site. The panels will be a new bi-facial model, which also generates electricity from light reflected off the ground – a useful feature during Vermont’s snowy winters. At 500 kilowatts, BCS will be considerably larger than the Energy Co-op’s two previous 150 kW projects in Middlebury and Shoreham.

The Acorn Energy Co-op’s innovative investment model calls for two initial categories of investors in Bristol Community Solar: a single Series A Member, and multiple Series B Members. The Co-operative Insurance Companies of Middlebury will be the Series A investor. Their involvement helps to keep the costs down for the Series B investors.

The Series B investors will receive net metering dollar credits applied each month to their GMP electric bills based on the amount of electricity produced the previous month for the number of investment units they have purchased.

“We are extremely pleased to have Co-operative Insurance as a major participant in Bristol Community Solar, says Richard Carpenter, Acorn Energy Co-op’s treasurer. “They played a similar major investment role in our Shoreham, Vermont project, Acorn Energy Solar 2, as well as our Middlebury project, Acorn Energy Solar One.”

Six years after the Bristol project begins electricity production, the equity structure will “flip” and the individual investors may take full ownership of the project, making BCS one of a small number of local, community-owned net metered solar projects in the state.

“Acorn Energy Co-op is very excited to be moving ahead with this community-owned solar project developed by Vermonters for Vermont residents,” says president Marks. “We believe it will help decentralize the grid, and will also help the State of Vermont to reach its ambitious goal of 90 percent renewables by 2050.”

A schedule of Informational online meetings for prospective investors can be found at: acornenergycoop.com.
Organized in 2008, The Acorn Energy Co-op is a member-owned cooperative serving residents and businesses in Addison, Rutland and Chittenden counties. The Co-op provides education, outreach, products and services, as well as community solar projects that help members make the transition from our present reliance on fossil fuels to greater use of renewables and local solutions.

For more information on Bristol Community Solar, or to join the Acorn Energy Co-op, visit acornenergycoop.com, email [email protected], or call Mary Mester at 802-385-1911.

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