Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Mary Powell, president of Green Mountain Power, talks about the Stafford Hill Solar Farm, which will contain 7,700 solar panels generating 2 megawatts of electricity.
RUTLAND — Rutland is home to a first-of-its-kind solar project that will ensure the lights stay on during a disaster.
Green Mountain Power broke ground Tuesday on a large-scale solar project that will establish a “micro-grid” to provide power to the city’s emergency shelter.
The 7,700-panel array will be built on the site of the former city landfill, and is believed to be the first time in the United States that a brownfield site once used for burying trash will be reused for a solar storage project.
“This is what we should be doing, not only at every landfill in Vermont, but at every landfill in America,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin, who was hand to announce the start of the project.
The solar array is expected to generate 2 megawatts of electricity, which under a bright sun can power 2,000 households.
Perhaps more important, the project will include 4 megawatts of battery storage to hold the electricity generated by the solar array.
Together, the panels and batteries create a micro-grid. According to the federal Department of Energy, this self-contained micro-grid, powered entirely by solar, is the first of its kind in the country.
It’s also just what the city needs, said Mary Powell, GMP’s president and CEO.
“Rutland seems to be the focal point for a lot of crazy storm activity,” Powell said, noting the project will create what she called an “island” of electricity in the event of a widespread power outage.
The micro-grid will provide power to Rutland High School, which is the city’s designated emergency shelter.
Mayor Christopher Louras was in office for only a few months when a massive storm struck the city in 2007, knocking out power to residents, businesses and Rutland Regional Medical Center.
Louras, who attended Tuesday’s ceremony, recalled how the Red Cross shelter was unable to open due to lack of power.
The project is also the latest step in making Rutland the solar capital of New England.
“GMP’s Energy Innovation Center has already breathed new life into our downtown and inspired many of our new businesses to open,” Louras said.
“Similarly, this project is creating energy and income for the city on property that has no real development opportunity,” he said. “Equally important, projects like this are putting Rutland on the map in the renewable energy world.”
The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
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