Sun-Trackers Bring Solar Power To Vermont

The Green Mountain State just got a little greener. With a signal sent from an iPhone, the last of 382 pole-mounted sun-trackers – made right there in Vermont, by the way – shifted into place and a solar plant that will produce 2.2-megawatts of power at peak output was up and running. The South Burlington array is the state’s biggest solar-power producer.

According to manufacturer All Earth Renewables, these trackers, each consisting of 24 photovoltaic panels, “use innovative GPS and wireless technology to actively follow the sun throughout the day, producing more than 40 percent more energy than fixed solar.” It’s estimated that 2.91 million kilowatt-hours of electricity from the plant will be sold each year to Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program.

largest solar power plant in Vermont

image via All Earth Renewables

The trackers were made in Williston, Vt., a mere four miles from where they now operate. Manufacturer All Earth Renewables was started by Vermont native David Blittersdorf in 2005. The focus then was on wind power, but the company changed its name in 2009 after it introduced the AllSun Trackers and added solar to its repertoire.

The commissioning of the panels was big enough news in Vermont to bring out Gov. Peter Shumlin, shown above, who had the honors of pushing a button on Blittersdorf’s iPhone to activate the final trackers.

And one final note about the Vermont power plant: Each of the trackers has its own inverter, essentially making it an independent power producer. According to California-based inverter manufacturer SMA, this helps allow each tracker to operate at maximum efficiency, while also preventing overall power losses that can arise when using a single centralized inverter.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.