On July 11 2012 the team and I took a visit to the currently largest solar farm in Vermont. The project, located in South Burlington, Vermont, is backed by the local Renewable Energy developer AllEarth Renewables. They provided 382 of their AllSun solar panel trackers for the project. The AllSun Trackers are pole mounted solar panels that use GPS to track the sun throughout the day which the company says allows them to produce 40% more energy than fixed solar panels. Each panel is equip with it's own inverter thus making the system more eficient. The system totals to 2.2 MW making it the largest system in the state.
The array is part of Vermont's Standard Offer Program and all of the energy generated from the solar farm will be sold to Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program (SPEED). In 2005, the Vermont General Assembly established the SPEED program to encourage the development of instate renewable energy. In 2009 The Vermont FIT program was enacted to change the Vermont's Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development Program (SPEED) by initiating a pilot feed-in tariff policy. Tariffs are a political policy mechanism set up with the intention of accelerating investment in renewable energy technologies. This is done by by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers, typically based on the cost of generation of each technology. Vermont's legislation is unique in that the tariffs are based on the cost of generation plus a reasonable profit. Cost of the program is taken on by ratepayers not taxpayer. The tariff is based on key elements of successful policies found in Europe such as tariffs differentiated by technology and size, tariffs set on cost of generation and profit, and long term contracts with regular program reviews. It is set up to include 'tariff degression', a track on the technological cost reductions so that when technology advances and lowers in price the energy producers receive cost-based compensation. These programs have been caluculated to recover developer's costs plus provide a return on their investment making renewable energy investments more realistic.
AllEarth Renewables provides energy production data for each of their Sites. This site, #316, has been online since May 2011 and has produced a total of 4,211,827 kWh of energy. After visiting this site I gained a good understanding of the amount of land required for solar PV systems. I feel that for the amount of energy these systems produce, and the amount of misused land space there is it is not unreasonable. This system is unique in that there are inverters designated for each panel. We were able to see this and notice the wiring of the system. This makes the system more efficient because, unlike systems with multiple panels hooked up to one inverter which causes the maximum output of the inverter to be influenced by the minimum input panel, each inverter puts out according to a single panel. All in all this field trip was great exposure to a unique solar PV farm locally supported in Vermont.