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Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Route 7 solar farm prepares to join grid

In June 2010, the Vermont State Legislature passed a bill to take affirmative steps away from the use of fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. The first company to take advantage of this new bill is Pormerleau Real Estate, which usually specializes in commercial building and real estate. This year the company has taken the first step towards renewable energy sources.
Pormerleau Real Estate bought 16 acres of land off of Route 7 between Middlebury and Burlington, in the town of Ferrisburgh. Of the 16 acres, eight have been transformed into a solar panel field that can generate one megawatt of energy, “enough energy to supply 170 homes for an entire year,” according to Brian Waxler, vice president of Pormerleau. This energy does not go straight to the homes, however.
“Utilities buy from many sources, and they will buy a small percentage from Addison Solar Farm,” said Waxler. The idea is that by presenting multiple renewable sources of energy, these companies will have to buy less energy from fossil fuel sources.
After becoming eligible for the program, it took Pormerleau Real Estate about a year to complete all of the necessary forms to allow them to build a solar farm on their property. Waxler explained that as a real estate company, Pormerleau already had a good understanding of the process. After the paper work was completed, installation began.
“There are 25 people working in three to four separate crews to install the panels,” said Waxler.
Currently, about 50 percent of the panels have been installed. All of the steel supports are complete, and the farm should be operating by Thanksgiving. In total there will be 4,000 solar panels on the eight acres of land.
Yet the company was not just concerned with the final product. Pormerleau Real Estate remained determined to make the entire project local to benefit as many Vermonters as possible.
“We made sure the workers, engineers and architects were all Vermonters to keep the project in the local economy,” said Waxler.
When deciding whom to hire to supply Pormerleau Real Estate with computers to monitor the farm’s production and put the data on the Internet, Waxler stuck with the local mentality and chose a company that was “right down the road from my office.” His other option was a firm stationed in California that was not as expensive. Waxler believes that the bill was a Vermont initiative to benefit Vermonters, and that is exactly what Pormerleau Real Estate intends to uphold.
Although Pormerleau Real Estate does not plan to continue to create green energy sources, the company took the initial risk and that crucial first step to inspire others to follow. Right now, Waxler explained, there are two other projects in the works that are six or seven months behind Pormerleau. These other projects have been in contact with the real estate company to get advice, share information and receive help in terms of paper work and logistics from an experienced company.
“We aren’t competitors,” said Waxler. “We seem them as teammates working against fossil fuel.”
Waxler describes the event as a whole as “pushing the ball uphill” and away from fossil fuels. Although a sea of solar panels next to Route 7 may not be the typical view of a Vermont field, it is clear that the state and its citizens want this movement to be as visible as possible.
“Visitors and local people will be able to drive by and see rows and rows of panels,” said Waxler. “They will see Vermonters taking a stand, moving in the right direction and getting away from fossil fuels. We should all be proud.”

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