BY Jeanne Miles, Staff Writer
Wednesday August 23, 2006
LYNDON CENTER – Energy was the hot topic Tuesday at a summit at Lyndon State College, but there was little mention of cooling breezes.
About 350 people turned out to talk about Vermont’s energy future and how to fill future demand. Many different renewable energy sources were topics of discussion during the all-day event.
Not included, however, was industrial wind, an omission that disappointed some attendees. Gov. Jim Douglas spoke to the group for about 15 minutes and never mentioned the word “wind.” Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie was more to the point.
“I am an unabashed supporter of wind,” Dubie told the crowd.
The conference was organized by the Vermont Council on Rural Development. Paul Costello, executive director of the council, said large wind projects were not included because organizers did not want discussion to center on that one topic.
“We didn’t want to spend the day discussing what has been discussed elsewhere,” Costello said. The issue did come up during a workshop on small wind development, he said.
Two commercial wind projects now before the Public Service Board are located within 10 miles of the LSC campus. UPC Vermont Wind has petitioned the PSB for a certificate of public good to build 20 large wind turbines in Sheffield and another six in neighboring Sutton. The permit process is in the early stages.
East Haven Windfarm was denied a certificate of public good in June to erect four commercial wind turbines on East Mountain in East Haven. The wind developer has asked the PSB to reconsider that decision.
Both Matt Kearns of UPC and Mathew Rubin of East Haven Windfarm, who were at the conference, said they were disappointed large wind was not included.
Topics of discussion did include solar, hydroelectric, biomass, biofuels, small wind, efficiency and conservation and community energy planning. Avram Patt, manager of Washington Electric Cooperative, said these sources could provide about 120 megawatts of power.
“That’s nothing to sneeze at,” Patt said. But since the peak demand in Vermont is about 1,100 megawatts, other sources would be needed, including commercial wind power. Right now that demand is being met from Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant Hydro Quebec and in state hydro plants.
How that power will be replaced when contracts run out in about five years and at what cost will have to be determined, said James Volz, chairman of the PSB.
Volz said utilities have an obligation to serve their customers. “The power will come from somewhere,” he said. “Efficiency has to be a major part of it.” His board is the one which determines if new generating plants will go forward or not. Section 248 is the process used and Volz said Section 248 “is a somewhat cumbersome process.”
The result of all discussion groups was the fact that more education is needed and the regulatory process needs to be streamlined.
Dr. Alan Betts, president of the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering, said global warming is a fact and that wind power has been growing steadily around the world. “Each technology has some trade-off,” Betts said. “I am struck by the number of people who are unaware.”
There was quite a diverse pool of opinions during a discussion on community energy planning. The roughly 60 people present talked about exploring opportunities for many different types of renewable energy sources, but the two main themes that emerged were finding ways to educate the public with unbiased facts and engaging communities beyond just coming up with good ideas.
A good part of talk concerned educating the youth by getting the schools on some kind of renewable power source which could be incorporated into the curriculum, naturally generating the next generation of energy-conscious people.
The information gathered at Tuesday’s conference will be considered by the Vermont Rural Energy Council as it prepares a report scheduled to be completed by June or July of next year, council Chairman Richard White said. This report will be sent to the governor and the Legislature.
Staff writer Jacob Grant contributed to this story.