By John Herrick, VTDigger.org
More than 150 people attended a State House hearing Tuesday night, March 24, which was designed to help lawmakers draft policy to address concerns over the siting of the growing number of wind and solar farms in Vermont.
The amount of wind and solar energy generated in Vermont has increased tenfold from about 20 megawatts of capacity in 2010 to more than 200 megawatts either installed or permitted today, according to the Department of Public Service.
Some residents say these projects harm Vermont’s aesthetic character and towns. Others warned lawmakers not to slow progress on curbing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, said he has received up to 20 letters from constituents on the issue. “I’ve had everything from ‘I don’t want to see any development in our county’ to ‘New Haven ought to be proud that it may be leading the state in the amount of renewable energy generated there,’” Bray said. He said his committee will set up a working group over the summer to help inform legislation for next year.
Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, chair of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said he will pass legislation out of the House this year to address siting. He said it may give towns with clear siting standards a stronger say in the location of projects. He also said it may include incentives to build projects in developed areas such as gravel pits and landfills.
Solar installers say there are already constraints on where projects can be located.
“It’s a long process,” Duane Peterson, co-founder of Waterbury-based SunCommon, said. “Town-by-town regulations, with hundreds of towns, would add to the challenge.”