GMP enters partnership for state’s largest solar project

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The new 55-acre solar project on GlobalFoundries' land is shown from an aerial view. (Courtesy photo)

The new 55-acre solar project on GlobalFoundries’ land is shown from an aerial view. (Courtesy photo)

Representatives from Colchester’s Green Mountain Power gathered at GlobalFoundries in Essex Jct. on Tuesday to announce the companies’ partnership in a new solar project.

Embracing the renewable energy revolution, the new facility located on GlobalFoundries’ land and leased to GMP, will produce over 8 million kilowatt-hours per year. This energy will power GlobalFoundries, along with 1,100 Williston homes, GMP CEO Mary Powell said.

The 4.7-megawatt project, located on the Williston side of the GlobalFoundries campus, will provide 500 kW to the company. The balance will go toward powering GMP customers in the area, Powell explained.

“Vermont’s largest solar project is being unveiled today at Vermont’s largest manufacturer,” Powell said as the room filled with applause.

At about half the price of other solar projects, the new project is the most cost-effective solar generation project in the state, Powell said.

With a vision of providing cost-effective, low-carbon and reliable energy, Powell said the new facility is a large step forward for GMP.

A little less than 20,000 panels span the approximate 55-acre project. Within that area rests a four-acre Sandia research training center, GlobalFoundries senior location executive Janette Bombardier said. The site is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and provides a place for solar research testing.

The research center is a bonus for leveraging and optimizing their product, Powell said. The training center will make the project even more valuable in the long run, she said, but it’s not the main focus of the development.

Growing this new project specifically in Vermont is another bonus, she said.

“We operate in the state of Vermont as a regulated utility,” she noted. “But because Vermont has in many ways pioneered legislation that has helped facilitate [clean energy], I would say in this really important energy transformation, we’re lucky that we work in Vermont.”

Powell went on to add that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pioneered the adaptation of the center, one of five in the nation. He built a relationship with Sandia, convincing them of the importance of studying solar in a cold climate, a big factor when it comes to solar.

On a bright, sunny day, the panels generate around 60 MW. On a gray, cloudy day like last Monday, generation ranks around 33 MW, or 850,000 kWh at the GlobalFoundries location.

Built by groSolar, a Vermont solar company, the facility is welcomed by the town of Williston, town manager Rick McGuire explained to the crowd on Tuesday.

“We’re thrilled to have this project in our community,” he said, congratulating all those involved in the partnership.

Green Mountain Power CEO and president Mary Powell addresses a crowd at GlobalFoundries on Tuesday to announce the utility's part in Vermont's largest solar project. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Green Mountain Power CEO and president Mary Powell addresses a crowd at GlobalFoundries on Tuesday to announce the utility’s part in Vermont’s largest solar project. (Photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

Bombardier said support from the town of Williston and others helped the project go smoothly.

The biggest obstacle was when the company made the transition in ownership from IBM to GlobalFoundries in July 2015. The new solar project was already underway, but they managed to work through the changeover, she said.

Powell commended the collaboration involved in the project, including the town, two companies and others involved.

Seth Bowden, vice president of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, also expressed his excitement for the collaboration.

“We talk about how this could happen in a number of places. But [here,] it’s accelerated and benefited by a partnership with so much experience,” he said.

The project went operational last Wednesday, GMP said.