Montpelier-based solar developer awarded Rockingham gravel pit lease

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The Montpelier-based solar developer, Novus Energy Development LLC, has been awarded a 20-year lease to build a solar array on a portion of the gravel pit located in Bartonsville, land that is owned by Rockingham.

Back in May, multiple Vermont solar companies approached the Rockingham Selectboard with competing proposals to build a 2.3-megawatt solar array at the gravel pit location.

Located in-between Route 103 and the Williams River, the 44-acre piece of land has grabbed the attention of various solar companies for quite some time because of its southern sun exposure and high electric rate according to state policies, which encourages solar development on gravel pit and brownfield locations.

Earlier in the year the Energy Committee of the Rockingham Conservation Commission held meetings with the solar companies to review their solar energy plans, which had originally suggested a smaller 500-kilowatt per hour project.

Previously, another proposed Rockingham-owned site had been considered as well, a parcel of land, which is currently a hayfield, near the Rockingham Meeting House along Route 103, but the Selectboard was wary of that option because of the immediate area’s historical significance, as well as the natural agricultural aspects of the land.

At a recent Selectboard meeting in June, guidelines were set as to receive the official proposals from solar companies for consideration. Proposals for the gravel pit land were submitted at the end of June for the Selectboard to evaluate, as well as allowing time for potential developers to file electricity-related applications with the state.

Rockingham has proposed a land lease of 20 years, with one additional option of 5 years. Originally, a 10-year lease with multiple 5-year options was considered, but a 20-year lease is seemingly the current industry standard.

The land had an estimated value of $286,000 – around $6,500 per acre – however, the Novus Energy offer is more than double what any other developer was offering. The plan is to apply for a “public good” certificate by September, with construction to begin sometime in 2022. Novus Energy has previously completed multiple solar projects throughout Vermont, including another array in Bartonsville.

The proposed solar array site is approximately nine acres, which would preserve much of the 44-acres of land for future town use and a continued storage area for the Town Highway Department. The energy credits from the gravel pit project will go to the town of Rockingham and the village of Bellows Falls.

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