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Report: Gov. backing off solar, wind; Local proposals gain mentions

MONTPELIER – The Rutland Herald on Saturday reported that Gov. Peter Shumlin is opposing a group of large-scale solar projects – including two in Franklin County – as being too big for the state and for the communities where they would be built.

Also, comments attributed to Shumlin appear to challenge construction of the Swanton Wind project – seven 500-foot-tall turbines proposed near the border of Swanton and St. Albans Town off of Route 105 atop Rocky Ridge.

An article written by Neal P. Goswami, of the Vermont Press Bureau, Shumlin quotes the governor saying that the recent proposal by Ranger Solar LLC to construct 20-megawatt solar arrays in Ludlow, Brandon, Highgate, Randolph Center, Irasburg and Sheldon is going too far.

“I personally think that a 20-megawatt solar project is too big. It’s just too big,”

Shumlin told the Vermont Press Bureau. “As governor, I believe they should not proceed with those projects. They are wrong for Vermont.”

The six Ranger Solar projects, as previously reported in the Messenger, are 10 times larger than any existing solar installations in the state.

While the approval process for both solar and wind projects lies with the Public Service Board, Shumlin is quoted as advocating “homegrown, not corporate-grown” solar. He added, “It should not be too big. … It is not good, Vermont common sense to build projects that size.”

Shumlin also said, “The Vermont way includes wind power, but in select areas.” Wind power “has been good for Vermont” and is “one of the most efficient renewables that you can build,” he said.

As quoted in the Herald, the governor said that the wind projects in place in Sheffield, a 40-megawatt installation, and Lowell, a 63-megawatt installation, “make sense,” but additional large-scale projects, including solar and wind, would pose problems for the electrical grid.

“They build it before they think clearly and they can’t get it distributed to the folks who need it,” the governor said. “If you build projects of that size – the grid was not set up to be able to maximize the use of that power.”

Regarding wind projects, Shumlin was quoted saying, “We’re now at the stage in terms of the grid where if you build big wind in the Northeast Kingdom, or if you build big wind in Franklin County, parts of Franklin County that are being proposed, again, you will have stranded renewables.”

“You will have difficulty getting those into the grid without making extraordinary investments to the grid that will cost Vermont ratepayers money,” he said. “So, let’s continue to do wind, but let’s do it sensibly and let’s do it in the right places.”