Vt. loves renewable energy, except when it arrives

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm •  Published: March 2, 2014
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Getting energy from the sun, wind and forests fits with Vermont's sense of itself as clean, green and independent. But when it comes time to build and live with the projects that make it possible, things can get complicated.

The state's own comprehensive energy plan contemplates a future of electric cars and renewable sources providing 90 percent of its energy needs. And Vermont was recently rated No. 1 in solar industry jobs per capita.

But strong opposition from citizens' groups to a wind-power project in Lowell, the recent vote by property owners to reject a proposed wind farm in northeastern Vermont, and a ruling by state regulators against a proposed wood-burning power plant in southern Vermont have some questioning the state's willingness to turn talk into action.

"It's time for Vermont to grow up and get real on the future, and the future is renewables," said David Blittersdorf, co-owner of another wind-power project, Georgia Mountain Community Wind.

Vermont is not alone in its ambivalence. Cape Wind has been battling legal challenges and the Massachusetts permit process for more than a decade as it looks to build the nation's first off-shore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. It now appears on track and announced a $600 million tentative financing deal this past week.

The giant Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, in the Mohave Desert near the Nevada-California border, opened this past month, but only after years of legal tangles, including a fight over the fate of a species of desert tortoise.

Vermont has not always been friendly to more traditional energy sources, either.

The state's lone nuclear plant is to close at the end of the year. Vermont Yankee owner Entergy Corp. says it is doing so for economic reasons. But Gov. Peter Shumlin, state lawmakers and vocal anti-nuclear groups had been trying to close the plant for years.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group, a large and powerful consumer and environmental lobby, is fighting a plan to extend a natural gas pipeline that now serves just northwestern Vermont. It complains that using natural gas causes the carbon emissions blamed for climate change, and that the gas is being extracted in Canada with environmentally damaging hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a practice banned within Vermont's borders.

But if big energy installations have drawn fights, renewables — long described as "alternative" energy sources — haven't had a free ride, either. Even some solar installations have come under fire, despite their lack of carbon emissions and their apparent immunity from the charge levied at wind turbines that they kill birds and bats.



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