If 66 percent of Vermonters favor industrial wind on our mountains then pro-wind groups have nothing to worry about in Senate Bill 30. S.30 lays out a process to answer many unanswered questions about industrial wind. It also gives regional and town plans a determinative role in the Public Service Board permit process.
An in-depth study by the prestigious Pacific Research Institute found that a wind project needed to have a capacity factor of 35 percent before it could erase its carbon footprint within its life expectancy of 20 years. In New York state and Maine, the capacity factor has been around 23 percent. Also in the news is the fact that all over the world industrial wind turbines have been failing prematurely and not coming close to that 20-year mark.
Lowell cost about $170 million and Sheffield about $120 million; between the two of them they will receive about $80 million in federal tax dollars (our money). If that same $80 million had been spent to insulate Vermonters homes we could have insulated about 23,000 homes, saved Vermonters around $23 million per year in fuel cost and reduced carbon more than twice what Sheffield and Lowell combined will. (CO2 reduction: Lowell 70,000 tons/year, Sheffield 44,000 tons/year < $80 million in insulation, 260,000 tons/year.) Local contractors would be doing the work insulating homes and we know that means that the money would have a multiplier effect in the community. All of this with no adverse environmental impacts. Remember that is just the public money ($80 million) not the full $290 million that was spent on the two projects. That $290 million will all be paid for by the ratepayers and taxpayers.
S.30 is the product of more information and testimony than has ever been compiled on this subject in the Vermont Legislature. It will not stop communities that want industrial wind. It is a work in progress as we wait for many unanswered questions to be answered and the results of the siting commission so that next year we can continue to improve the way that we site electric generation in Vermont.
What it will do is give communities that do not want industrial wind a much needed voice against a well-funded industry that does not care about our heritage or our environment. Call your legislators and the governor and ask them to support S.30. Tell them that the 65 to 70 percent of Vermonters that supposedly want it can still have industrial wind and those who do not want it can pursue other more productive methods to address climate change.
This op-ed is by Sen. John S. Rodgers of Glover, a Democrat who represents the Essex/Orleans District in the Vermont Senate.
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