Giant solar array planned

One Vermont business has taken its environmental commitment to a new level - all the way to the roof.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. will build Vermont's largest solar array on top of the distribution center of its Green Mountain Coffee facility in Waterbury. Construction of the 100 kW photovoltaic array is expected to begin in the spring of 2009 and be completed by summer.

The solar array is the result of an innovative partnership between the coffee company, the state of Vermont, Green Mountain Power, and "groSolar," North America's premier provider of solar energy solutions. The electricity generated by the approximately 530 solar panels will produce a small percentage of the total electricity Green Mountain Coffee needs for its production facilities in Waterbury. Company officials say the greater benefit is in showing what is possible for the future.

"Renewable energy must be a part of our overall energy strategy," said Paul Comey, vice president of environmental Affairs for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. "We want to show our state and federal governments that solar energy works, and that we need a policy that provides a broad-reaching structure for renewable energy."

The array will produce its power during the day, when Green Mountain Power needs it most.

Solar power offers a unique value to the electric grid, as most of the power is generated during hot summer days, when the system is strained and other sources are expensive. GMCR will benefit from Green Mountain Power's groundbreaking Solar GMP program, which provides financial incentives to its customers to install solar generation at their homes and businesses. However, critics said that the northern New England is not the best locale for generating consistent solar power.

GroSolar was selected to design and install the solar arrays at Green Mountain Coffee. As one of the largest solar installation companies in the U.S., groSolar is dedicated to energy independence and fighting global warming. CEO Jeff Wolfe says Vermont's tax incentives for commercial solar systems, coupled with grants from the Vermont Department of Public Service's Clean Energy Development Fund and Green Mountain Power, made the economics of the system very attractive.

"Vermont has a great solar resource and great incentives for commercial solar energy. Green Mountain Power, GMCR, Vermont's Department of Public Service, and groSolar have shown that solar will be part of Vermont's energy solution," he says.

"We are very pleased to see this solar installation become a reality," says David O'Brien, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service. "Gov. Douglas places a high value on commercial-level solar applications. We commend GMCR for taking this step."

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