Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is in the business of energizing its customers. Its latest challenge-- energizing its plant in Waterbury.
The vice president of environmental affairs at Green Mountain Coffee, Paul Comey, said, "There are times we draw close to a megawatt of electricity. So we're big consumers of electricity."
This spring, it will be producers of electricity, too.
530 solar panels will soon top the roof of the company's distribution center.
A partnership with Green Mountain Power and groSolar-- a renewable energy developer based in White River Junction-- will make this the largest solar array in Vermont.
"It generates 100,000 watts, but we see it will probably be about 112,000 kilowatt hours of good electricity it produces a year. And that will be enough to run about 16 households year-round," Comey said.
Green Mountain Coffee says the project will only generate 1 percent of the power the plant uses. But it's a start and an experiment in how solar can work for business.
"One percent doesn't sound like a big number but if you look at the country, typically the country has one-tenth of one percent solar power, so the fact that we have more than one percent solar is a ten-fold increase over the entire country," Comey explained.
It's a $750,000 project. But state and federal tax incentives and public and private grants made it more affordable. It got $250,000 from the state's Clean Energy Development Fund and $50,000 from Green Mountain Power.
GMP says the whole state benefits from an investment in solar power.
"We are now a summer-peaking state, which means that is when we have the greatest chance that we're going to be going out into the higher-priced electricity markets to purchase power, when loads go up," explained Mary Powell, the CEO of Green Mountain Power. "So we really believe solar energy, particularly with all the incentives in place now, it makes a lot of sense to do as much of a build-out as we can because it will help us for years to come."
Green Mountain Coffee says it also hopes the project will encourage lawmakers and the public to support renewable energy.
"We hope this says to people it works," Comey said. "Let's work to make this a priority."
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