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Solar Debate Continues

Debate over a solar project in Rutland Town continues after months of back and forth.
RUTLAND TOWN, Vt. - A solar project in Rutland Town is still facing resistance after months of debate. From his front yard on Cold River Road, Dave Fucci will have a bird's eye view of a sprawling solar array.

"Where that lone pine tree is out there in the meadow, that would be about the center of the solar farm," Fucci says while standing in his driveway.

GroSolar, the company behind the proposed project, says thousands of panels will generate enough energy to power four hundred homes.

"This site is like a bowl, okay, so the solar panels are in the bottom of the bowl and everbody rings the bowl,” Fucci said.

Fucci and his neighbors believe one of the biggest solar projects in the state belongs out of sight, not near their homes. It gets tricky since Rutland Town has no zoning laws.

"We picked this project site because it is actually designated as industrial/commercial in the town plan," Executive Vice President of Operations Rod Viens said.

Faced with concern over this, and future development, the town spent months drafting up brand new solar guidelines. The selectboard approved a document, known as the Solar Facility Siting Standards, but is still modifying it before formally working it into the town plan. The section about panel setback is of particular interest. Neighbors want more distance between the solar panels and things like roads.

"What that would mean for us is we would need more land for this project and I think that's the last thing the neighbors want, is for us to consume more land," Viens said.

The company maintains that the project is not only good for green energy goals in Vermont, but also for the town's bottom line.

GroSolar says it will provide an annual payment to the town, without a burden on resources.

"We also pay to the state, the state education fund," Viens said. Company executives added that they hope the recently adopted standards will be revised, and made more solar friendly.

"The policy as written would be detrimental to other development in the town," he said.

The Public Service Board has the final say on the project, but by having these standards in place the town hopes the board better understands the town's position.
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