By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
The Woodstock Aqueduct Company has just purchased the solar array located on Route 12 North as part of a fiveyear lease-to-buy arrangement, according to AllEarth Renewables (AER) Vice President Eric Wegner.
The buyout option indicates that the trackers can be purchased for 30 percent of the installed cost, he noted.
“Our new 10-year-loan and maintenance agreement are equivalent to the PPA payments with the benefit of ‘free’ power after the 10-year loan term for the life of the trackers (25+ years),” said Wegner. “Not only will this investment allow the company to reallocate the cost of electricity to rebuilding aging infrastructure, but just as importantly, it helps contribute to a future environment of cleaner air and safe drinking water.”
AER of Vermont installed the solar tracker “orchard” in March of 2012. At that time, the Woodstock Aqueduct Company (WAC) signed a Power Purchase Agreement with them to pay for the electricity generated by the trackers at the same rate they were paying CVPS with the solar incentive, Wegner said.
Established in 1886 by his great grandfather, F.N. Billings, the WAC is currently being presided over by Jireh S. Billings (President), Wegner (VP), and Franklin S. Billings III (Secretary).
With the new buyout, WAC customers will continue to benefit because of the company’s ability to produce its own power, Jireh Billings related.
“Today, we work on net metering which gives us a credit to apply to our electric bill,” Billings said. “In the future, as battery storage technology improves and comes down in price, I foresee a day when future generations will be able to keep the water flowing even during events like Tropical Storm Irene.”
Now in its sixth year, the solar field is stillthe largest in town producing up to 95,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, creating the power to bring water to localhomes and businesses and adding fire protection to community needs, Wegner
The field of trackers sits back from the road and follows the sun like a flower throughout the day, Wegner explained.
“At night, they rest in a horizontal position, waking up in the morning and pivoting on their vertical axis from west to east in order to shed any snow accumulation in the winter in a broad arc,” said Wegner. “The anemometer on each unit measures wind velocity and return the solar arrays to their horizontal rest position when winds exceed 30 mph, preventing any wind damage.”
The fact that the arrays track the sun allows them to create up to 40 percent more electricity than fixed panels.
“Made and maintained by AER, these solar arrays provide us with the opportunity for a clean, selfsustaining, energy future,” said Wegner.
Supplying Woodstock with water from outlying streams began about the year 1878, according to town records. It wasn’t until January 1879 at a village meeting where O.P. Chandler, Justin F. Mackenzie, and Charles Chapman were appointed to a committee that research began to find a supply of water. On Jan. 5, 1880, the committee reported their findings and estimated that such a project would cost $17,000. In 1880, an act was passed by the Legislature incorporating the Woodstock Aqueduct Company.
The company was incorporated in the summer of 1886 with a capital stock of $36,000 in shares of $50 each. In 1887, work began on the reservoir that was built about two and a half miles west of the village on Thomas Brook, at an elevation of 260 feet above the Town Hall. The capacity of the reservoir was 2.5 million gallons. A dam was constructed with a stone and cement core. Water started to flow into homes and businesses in late November 1887.
“It’s amazing for me to run the company in the same building that another great grandfather, F.H. Gillingham, founded his business in the same year the Woodstock Aqueduct Company started,” said Billings. “We’re so proud to help move Vermont toward sustainable power production.”