Public Utility Commission Denies Application to Construct Solar Facility in Mount Philo Viewshed

On July 21, 2017, the Vermont Public Utility Commission denied an application by Peck Electric, Inc. to construct a 144 kW net-metered solar project in Charlotte, Vermont, in the middle of the western viewshed of Mount Philo facing Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. The one-acre solar project was proposed for a vacant field bordering a section of the scenic Lake Champlain Byway, approximately eight-tenths of a mile from Mount Philo State Park.

Attorney Eric Derry represented the Town of Charlotte in its opposition to the project, working together with the Agency of Natural Resources and the Department of Public Service. The project opponents successfully argued that, given the dramatic rise in elevation of Mount Philo, and the project’s close proximity to the base, it would be virtually impossible to adequately screen the project in the location proposed by the applicant. Furthermore, the opponents established that the project would be a dominant element in the surrounding landscape, particularly as seen from the western summit of Mount Philo, due to the lack of any similar development in the vicinity of the project site.

In denying the application, the Commission agreed with the project opponents, finding that the western viewshed from the summit is a primary attraction of the Park and that sightseeing that view “is precisely the kind of activity the enjoyment of which would be significantly degraded by the presence of the project.” A copy of the final decision in Case Number NM-6691 is available through the Public Utility Commission’s electronic case management system.

For additional information regarding the Public Utility Commission process, including issues with the siting of alternative energy or telecommunications infrastructure, please contact our office.