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Burlington Electric Department Details New Solar Research and Training Facility

A University of Vermont Solar Research and Training Facility located at the McNeil Generating Station in Burlington, Vt., was energized in late October, Burlington Electric Department reported.

The facility is the culmination of a multi-year partnership among the City of Burlington, the McNeil joint owners, the University of Vermont, and Encore Renewable Energy.

Representatives of those partners were joined at the announcement by Mayor Miro Weinberger, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.) and representatives of Vermont Gas Systems (VGS).

The solar array, permitted for up to 50 kilowatts of solar panels, was built by Encore for UVM at the McNeil site with support from VGS to allow for shared infrastructure at the project site.

The equipment for the facility was donated by the federal government with the assistance of Sanders, who also directed $150,000 in Congressional funding to the U.S. Department of Energy to help make the project a reality.

The McNeil joint owners are providing the use of the property through a five-year agreement with a renewal opportunity in return for the energy produced by the solar array.

BED will purchase all the energy produced at the solar facility from the other joint Owners.

The McNeil Generating Station is jointly owned by Burlington Electric Department (operator and 50% owner), Green Mountain Power (31%) and the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority (19%).

The joint owners have placed no production level requirements on the array, allowing UVM to prioritize research and educational benefits over solar production economics.

“The McNeil Generating Station not only provides an important renewable and reliable source of electric generation, but also can serve our community as an energy innovation hub, and today we take a tangible step toward that vision by energizing the new solar research and training facility,” said Darren Springer, General Manager, Burlington Electric Department. “In the future, we hope to build on this progress by adding a district energy system and exploring additional opportunities to utilize the plant.”

UVM intends to utilize its solar facility to accomplish the following goals, some of which may unlock additional funding for more research:

  • Leveraging the research facility for ongoing, meaningful, sustained renewable energy research in partnership with federal, state, and local funders and stakeholders;
  • Taking advantage of the research and workforce development opportunities for UVM undergraduate and graduate students; and
  • Fostering an ongoing relationship with BED to partner on further research and development opportunities.

Encore Renewable Energy was responsible for project planning, design, permitting, and construction of the new solar facility.