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From brownfield to greenfield: Ex-mine hosts Vermont’s biggest solar array

is a “brownfield” that has been transformed into a “greenfield” that will generate 5 megawatts of electricity — enough to power about 1,200 Vermont homes annually — for decades to come, according to its promoters. Joined by contractors ...

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Wolfe declined to say how much she earned, saying that was a private business matter, but she said that “up until we found a partner, found financing, I did this for six years without pay.”Greenwood Energy, in turn, obtained the financing it needed to build the project from three sources: Greenwich, Connecticut-based Fortress Investment Group, a private equity firm; a unit of Spain’s Banco Santander that provided a short-term “construction loan,” and Minneapolis-based US Bancorp, through which Greenwood had arranged a $52.8 million “tax equity and debt financing” package to cover six solar power projects it was building in three states, including the Elizabeth Mine.One of the selling points made by the developers when pitching the solar array to the Strafford Selectboard was that the project would stimulate the regional economy by spending more than $4 million on local construction jobs and professional fees and rentals, according to presentation documents used at community meetings.Vermont firms that were contracted to work on the project included Weston & Sampson, of Waterbury, which was hired to monitor construction (it had installed the tailings cap), Northwoods Excavating, of Thetford Center, to lay the ballasts and erect the racking to hold the South Korean-made solar panels, and Peck Electric of South Burlington as the contractor to wire the panels and perform other electrical work.Conti Solar, of Worcester, Massachusetts, installed the solar panels on the racks.A total of 2,222 concrete ballasts, each weighing up to 1,650 pounds, were trucked to the site, said William Bushnell, who oversaw construction for Greenwood Energy.Long-term investment returnOf the $18 million project cost, Greenwood spent about $2.7 million to upgrade six of the 10 miles of power lines needed to take the power to the Sharon substationOffsetting the total development cost, Greenwood received about $6 million in federal investment tax credits that it can keep or sell to lower tax liabilities, according to company executives, lowering the net cost to $12 millionSuch tax credits were originally authorized by Congress in 2005 to spur solar development and have been extended several times since.Ten months before construction of the array began in April, Greenwood and Brightfields hammered out the key component in making the project financially viable by negotiating a power purchase agreement with GMPThe 30-year contract calls for the utility to pay 14.9 cents per kilowatt-hour to Greenwood for the first 25 years, which then drops to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for the final five years.Based upon the solar array’s expected annual output of 8,675,000 kilowatt-hours, Elizabeth Mine Solar will receive about $1.3 million annually from GMPThe array is expected to operate for at least 30 years, at which point it will still be able to generate power but at a reduced capacity, although it could be extended if the panels are replacedAfter factoring in the cost of financing, operations and maintenance, and taxes it could take as long as 20 years before the solar array is profitable, said a Greenwood Energy executive.Finally, as part of obtaining a certificate of public good from the state’s Public Utility Commission, Greenwood Energy had to submit a $435,000 letter of credit for the establishment of a decommissioning fund to ensure money is available when the array stops operating and the facility is disassembled.22, 2017, at Elizabeth Mine in Strafford, VtThe energy harnessed from the array will be enough to power 1,250 homes(Valley News - Charles Hatcher)

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