In re Petition of Acorn Energy Solar 2, LLC (Therese Holmes and Timothy Holmes, Appellants)


NOTICE: This opinion is subject to motions for reargument under V.R.A.P. 40 as well as formal revision before publication in the Vermont Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions by email at: [email protected] or by mail at: Vermont Supreme Court, 109 State Street, Montpelier, Vermont 05609-0801, of any errors in order that corrections may be made before this opinion goes to press. 2021 VT 3 No. 2019-398 In re Petition of Acorn Energy Solar 2, LLC Supreme Court (Therese Holmes and Timothy Holmes, Appellants) On Appeal from Public Utility Commission April Term, 2020 Anthony Z. Roisman, Chair Cindy E. Hill of Hill Attorney PLLC, Middlebury, for Appellants. Benjamin Marks of Benjamin Marks Attorney at Law PLC, Cornwall, for Appellee Acorn Energy Solar 2, LLC. Alexander W. Wing, Special Counsel, Montpelier, for Appellee Vermont Department of Public Service. PRESENT: Reiber, C.J., Robinson, Eaton, Carroll and Cohen, JJ. ¶ 1. CARROLL, J. Therese and Timothy Holmes appeal a Public Utility Commission (PUC) decision granting Acorn Energy Solar 2 a certificate of public good (CPG) to build and operate a solar net-metering system. The Holmeses argue that the PUC erred in concluding that: Acorn’s application was complete under the PUC Rules; several proposed changes constituted minor amendments; the project would be located on a preferred site; the project would comply with setback requirements; and the project would not have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics, orderly development, wetlands, air pollution, greenhouse gases, and traffic. We affirm. I. Legal Background ¶ 2. We begin with an overview of the relevant legal background. A net-metering “system is an electricity producing system of up to 500 kW powered by a renewable energy source that operates alongside an existing electricity distribution network.” In re Stowe Cady Hill Solar, LLC, 2018 VT 3, ¶ 2, 206 Vt. 430, 182 A.3d 53. “A developer of a new electric-generation facility in Vermont may not begin construction until the PUC determines that the proposed project ‘will promote the general good of the State and issues a certificate to that effect.’ ” In re Derby GLC Solar, LLC, 2019 VT 77, ¶ 2, __Vt. ___, 221 A.3d 777 (quoting 30 V.S.A. § 248(a)(2)(B)); accord In re SolarCity Corp., 2019 VT 23, ¶ 2, 210 Vt. 51, 210 A.3d 1255. “In deciding whether to grant a CPG, the PUC is directed by statute to consider various criteria.” In re Green Mountain Power Corp., 2018 VT 97, ¶ 3, 208 Vt. 349, 198 A.3d 36. ¶ 3. As relevant to this appeal, the PUC must find that the “purchase, investment, or construction” of a project: (1) will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region with due consideration having been given to the recommendations of the municipal and regional planning commissions, the recommendations of the municipal legislative bodies, and the land conservation measures contained in the plan of an affected municipality. However: …. (B) With respect to a ground-mounted solar electric generation facility, the facility shall comply with the …

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