Over the past year, solar photovoltaic projects in Charlotte have mostly prompted public outcry and instigated large legal bills. But there is one quiet project that is so positive from every angle that the people who put it up are showing the world that solar done right is good.
The Ten Stones Solar Collective is said to be only the second true community power station in Vermont. The power produced by the 24 kW system is allocated to six meters owned by the members. The Collective paid for it, takes care of it, and benefits from it. It is locally owned energy on a small community scale.
The project grew out of the Solar Charlotte program started by VPIRG (Vermont Public Interest Research Group) in collaboration with Alteris Renewables (now Real Goods Solar.) When Real Goods came to assess the houses at Ten Stones, however, most were not suited for roof systems. If they were going to go solar, they had to find another way. The group settled on a ground mounted system in their large meadow more than 1,000 feet to the south of their houses.
No legal bills for this group. The Collective set to work creating legal agreements themselves for their newly-formed LLC. Vermont’s recently-passed group net metering law made the project possible, but the legislation was so new that there were no models to follow. The meetings were “a circus of legalese,” said Ed LeClair, executive director of Circus Smirkus and a member of the Collective, “but our small troupe worked brilliantly to pull together an important project for the community and, ultimately, the earth.”
Working together is a tradition-turned-habit at Ten Stones. When the neighborhood was designed in the early 1990s, a constructed wetland was part of the plan. Cattails and bulrushes continue to pre-treat septic material before it is pumped to the common leach fields. Ten Stones has a community garden and chickens, as well as ample forest and meadow, 45 acres of which was granted to the Vermont Land Trust.
Governor Peter Shumlin asserts, “we’ve got to get off fossil fuels as quickly as we know how, to make this planet livable for our children and our grandchildren.” Within two weeks of going live, the Ten Stones system had already offset a ton of carbon. It is calculated to offset almost 20 tons of carbon every year. “It’s a small start,” said Rebecca Foster, who organized the Ten Stones Solar Collective, “but a fact that makes me want to weep for joy.”