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Work has begun on a micro-grid project in the US state of Vermont which is powered by a combination of solar and a battery backup and aims to reduce the impact of power outages and other supply disruptions on the local community.

Local electricity utility Green Mountain Power (GMP) held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project, Stafford Hill Solar Farm, Rutland City, yesterday. The 2MW solar farm is coupled with a 4MW battery storage system. GMP claims the solar farm can power 2,000 homes on a day of strong sunshine, or more typically around 365 homes throughout a year of mixed weather.

Meanwhile, the battery backup function allows the micro-grid to be completely disconnected in the event of an emergency and can also power an emergency response shelter located at the local high school.

The area was badly hit by Hurricane Irene in 2011, and the emergency response function, and indeed the whole project, is intended to improve the resiliency and safety of Rutland residents.

The ceremony to break ground on Stafford Hill, which is being built on a brownfield site formerly used for landfill, was attended by local dignitaries including Rutland City mayor Chris Louras and state governor Peter Shumlin. Shumlin is currently touring solar generation facilities in Vermont to promote renewable energy in the area.

Speaking at the event, Shumlin described Vermont as being on the cutting edge of the “renewable energy front”.

"The clean energy industry creates jobs and is good for the environment. Storing renewable power has always been a challenge, and I'm proud that we're here today to take that next step forward,” he said.

Built at a cost of around US$10 million, the Stafford Hill project is scheduled for completion in mid-December.

Participating organisations and companies alongside GMP in the creation and construction of the project include Dynapower, a power electronics maker also based in Vermont and national non-profit advocacy group Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), which GMP says secured funding from the US Department of Energy.

GMP’s Energy Innovation Centre in Vermont, was also a partner on the project.

GMP has used Rutland City to pilot several solar projects under its Energy City of the Future scheme, including the aforementioned GMP Energy Innovation Centre. In May, 50 GMP customers were able to sign up to join a community solar project for NRG Energy which led to the creation of a 150kW PV array, while during the same month, US energy secretary Ernest Moniz visited Energy Home of the Future, a private residence fitted with energy management systems and energy efficiency measures including solar panels and LED lights.