It’s lights out for a 500-kilowatt solar farm proposed for Cady Hill in Stowe, a project that traveled from the Stowe Select Board to the Vermont Supreme Court over the course of nearly three years.
The Vermont Public Utility Commission dismissed and closed the project last week, with no objections from any of the parties involved.
“This one is done for good,” said attorney Jeremy Hoff of Stackpole and French, the firm representing Stowe Electric Department in opposing the project.
The project, which would have covered 3 acres with 2,200 solar panels, drew consternation from Stowe residents when it was proposed in December 2016 by brothers Will and Victor Veve, with financing by Waterbury’s Green Lantern Group.
The brothers had better success with a solar farm proposed at about the same time on Moscow Road. That project went online last year.
One nearby property owner, Tim Meehan, said at a December 2016 select board meeting where the Cady Hill plans were unveiled, “It feels like we’re getting walked all over by developers.”
Part of residents’ frustration stemmed from the fact that projects governed by the state Public Service Board — since changed to the Public Utility Commission — are exempt from local zoning review. But that didn’t end up being a problem, because the utilities commission denied the project, anyway.
The primary issue that Stowe Electric, and the commission, had with the project was its location right next to the utility’s substation on Cady Hill Road, where numerous underground cables ran through. The town objected to its location in the “historic overlay district” and to the fact it would be visible from Route 100.
“Everyone was pretty united in opposition,” Hoff said.
That didn’t stop the project’s overseers from appealing it to the Supreme Court, which remanded the project to the Public Utility Commission, where it was litigated for two years, according to Hoff.
“It had a pretty tortuous process,” he said.
The owner of the land proposed for the solar farm didn’t have much of a dog in the fight, according to Hoff. He had thought about building a house there, but then offered to sell to the Veves.
The owner instead sold the parcel to Stowe Electric in July, diminishing any chance of the Veves’ project being built there. Hoff said the utility bought the parcel to protect the land through which all those electrical wires run.
The Veves’ other project, a 500-kilowatt solar farm on Moscow Road, came online last year, and was much smoother sailing than the Cady Hill project.
“It’s interesting to compare the two, because the Moscow one was properly sited,” Hoff said. “Cady Hill was really an example of how not to do a project like this.”