LUDLOW, Vt. — NextEra Energy, a commercial provider of wind, natural gas, solar and nuclear energy, is building a solar-energy site here that it expects to complete by December, after eight months of construction. The company is installing more than 83,000 photovoltaic solar panels on 85.8 acres of sloping mountainside, not far from the Okemo Ski Resort. NextEra Energy said the project will generate 20 megawatts of power, providing power to 5,000 homes. The company calls the site the Coolidge Solar Project.
The company claims the project will generate approximately $4 million in tax revenue to local and state governments over the life of the project, which is expected to be at least 20 years and could be as long as 40. A company press release stated that NextEra expects to make its first payment to Ludlow of about $175,000 soon.
The peak construction phase underway now involves about 130 construction jobs, about 80 of them local workers, project manager Liz Peyton said. Company documents also state that there are nine “local vendors” on the project. Over the coming weeks, the work site will scale down as the project moves toward completion. The project is currently on schedule, the company press release said.
Site manager John Bollato explained that each site a project such as this sits on has its own topography and characteristics, which NextEra Energy takes into account when designing the layout. The solar power industry now has a lot of historical data that allows the company to build a large project on a steep and foggy Vermont mountain, he said.
Although NextEra Energy is based in Florida, and has built other solar projects on flatter and warmer land, the company is aware that New England weather can be finicky. The company has three other projects in New England, but none as big as this one, which it claims is the largest solar site in Vermont. The solar panels will shed snow easily, not unlike a metal roof. In the event of a big blizzard, of course, “we’re anticipating we’ll see a loss” of generated power levels, said Peyton. The company has ways of monitoring the site’s electric output remotely, she added, both here in New England and at the company’s Florida headquarters.
But the company also notes that the site is near Green Mountain Power infrastructure, allowing the project to feed power to the grid without having to build extensive new transmission lines.