On August 14, 2015

Solar siting task force holds first meeting

By Erin Mansfield, VTDigger.org

A legislative study committee held its first meeting Tuesday, July 28, to explore how to write a law to guide where solar farms can be built in Vermont.

The Solar Siting Task Force was formed as part of H.40, the renewable energy bill signed into law as Act 56. The 10-person group has until Jan. 15 to propose legislation on where solar farms can be built and how communities would be involved in the siting process.

In some communities, residents complain they have little say in how out-of-state solar developers site large projects.

The Legislature made the land use planning for solar development a priority, but lawmakers delayed passage of a proposal and instead pushed responsibility off to the committee—a group of nine experts and one designated representative for the public.

About a dozen Vermont residents lined the walls at the Public Service Department conference room to speak during the meeting’s public comment period. Many came from communities that faced divisive energy projects.

Chris Recchia, who is both chair of the Solar Siting Task Force and commissioner of the Public Service Department, likened the controversy over solar siting to “growing pains.” He said he is not sure whether the committee will recommend to amend Section 248, change the power of regional planning commissions, or change solar siting procedures at the level of local zoning boards.

The committee meets again the second week of September.

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