MONTPELIER – Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate want to ban any future industrial wind projects.
Sen. John Rodgers, D-Essex-Orleans, introduced S.210 on the first day of the session earlier this month. Rep. Vicki Strong, R-Irasburg, introduced H.598 on Wednesday.
The bills would ban any wind energy project with a capacity of 500 kilowatts or more – like existing projects in Sheffield and Georgia Mountain – though small individual turbines would still be allowed. Strong and Rodgers cited the impact on the environment as well as the preservation of Vermont’s scenic resources as their motivations for pushing for an industrial wind ban
Strong’s bill mirrors the language of the Senate bill and has the support of more than 20 House members. Most are Republicans, but Strong said three Democrats have also signed on.
Rodgers, who sits on the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, brought grassroots opponents to industrial wind and advocates for energy siting reform to the Statehouse on Wednesday. Clad in neon vests, some held signs outside in the snow while others testified about the detrimental effects of large-scale energy developments on their towns.
They reacted with huge cheers when Rodgers brought up his intention to ban industrial wind. He compared turbines to billboards, which have been prohibited in Vermont for almost 50 years.
“They don’t fit here,” he said.
Gov. Peter Shumlin has made renewable energy a priority for his administration. In 2011, he set a goal to have 90 percent of Vermont’s energy come from renewable sources by 2050. The state has 10 times the amount of solar it did in 2010 and 20 times the wind energy. Shumlin did not respond to a request for comment on the initiatives.
Rodgers said his bill wouldn’t have an impact on the governor’s goals, but Jon Copans, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Service said a moratorium would certainly have negative impacts.
“It’s not compatible with either 90 percent by 2050 or our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases,” he said.
The chairman of Rodgers’ committee, Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, agreed. Both solar and wind are intermittent generators, meaning they can’t generate energy 100 percent of the time, he said, so taking wind out of the equation would mean no renewable energy could be produced at night.
“I’m in favor of thoughtful development that respects the wishes of towns and regions,” Bray said.
Rodgers said new technology will address the concerns about intermittent generation.
“There’s these new batteries that are totally nontoxic that are made with seawater that will soon have the capability to store energy from our solar panels without the destruction of the ridges,” he said.
The chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Anthony Klein, D-Montpelier, agreed. He added that a ban would send the wrong message to businesses thinking about investing in Vermont, and that the state has already struggled to attract business.
“I think the words ban and moratorium are the two most anti-business words in the English language,” he said.
The push to ban industrial wind comes as the Senate committee wrestles with giving towns more control over the siting process for energy projects. Siting has long been a controversial issue in the state, and the committee is currently considering legislation that would give towns more power in the process.
“Every year we try to solve the problem,” Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, saying resistance from the governor and renewable energy advocates made it difficult.
“I’m very hopeful,” Rodgers said, “that we can eventually solve the problem once and for all.”
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