October 26th, 2016

Our Say on Solar in Vermont

July 28 I attended the first meeting of the state’s solar siting board, in Montpelier. Almost every member seemed convinced already that Vermont must build, build, build solar power plants. Only the “how” seemed open for discussion.

And that’s the problem: Montpelier has already plugged its ears. Communities like my own can’t refuse to be unwilling hosts of sprawling power factories for the big cities. Instead we small, spread-out, cash-poor towns are at the mercy of Montpelier’s “you can’t say no” laws, paid legislators, full-time energy administrators, and extremely well-paid and too-influential lobbyists. A town’s desire to value agriculture, subdivision, or mere open land more than shiny power factories is of no enforceable consequence. Our tax base, job creation potential, and quality of life are secondary to the interests of one industry. And since the build-up to 90% has only begun, we can expect the carpetbagging to continue.

I proposed that communities not making their fair share of solar power per capita – most likely cities and large towns – would pay a Generation Imbalance Tax (GIT). Under-generating communities would pay proportionately to the school districts of over-generating communities.

I am not surprised that 40 Vermont towns have banded together to demand more say in solar siting. For one thing, there is no real need. New England and Quebec already make enough low-carbon power. We just need to support our region’s existing power makers (hydro, nuclear) and import more cheap, clean hydro power.

George Clain – Member of Town of Barre Planning Board
Barre, VT

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