Renewable energy projects should focus on local control

Saint Albans Messenger, October 8, 2015

Like most Vermonters, I support goals that would decrease our carbon footprint. Of all the energy we use in Vermont, only 5% is electricity and 95% is fueling our cars and heating our homes. If we truly want to decrease our carbon footprint, wouldn’t it be better to focus our resources on making our homes and cars more energy efficient?

Is it worth filling one third of our ridge lines L with 500 ft industrial wind turbines to meet 5% of our energy needs? What is the carbon footprint of making and installing these wind turbines?

Representatives Tony Klein and Shap Smith have both stated they want Vermont to produce 90% of its own energy. Does that make sense? With that line of thinking, shouldn’t Vermont also make 90% of all cars in state? Or should 90% of all clothing bought in Vermont be Vermont-made?

An interesting fact is that the wind turbines used at Georgia Mountain and the ones being considered for Swanton Wind are made by a Chinese company, Goldwind. How do we rationalize the polluting of China’s lakes and land while making our turbines? Using the made in Vermont goal, should 90% of our wind turbines be produced in Vermont?

Another goal of Representatives Tony Klein and Shap Smith is to have power produced locally and used locally. But why is it that many of our renewable energy projects sell “renewable energy credits” to Massachusetts and Connecticut? Are we destroying Vermont ridge lines and countrysides so other states can meet their renewable energy portfolios?

What are the safeguards for protecting the health of the families living near these turbines? Families in Lowell, Sheffield and Georgia Mountain report the turbine noise keeps them awake at night. How many people and communities is it ok to sacrifice for wind turbines? I believe the State of Vermont needs to protect Vermonters by setting siting standards for industrial wind turbines. There is much evidence that the low frequency noise emitted by industrial wind turbines is the cause of sleep disruption and illness. Vermont Lives Matter!

Our state is having growing pains with renewable energy. To keep support for renewable energy projects, I think there are a couple of steps the legislature can take. The first and most important is to return local control. Each town should have the power to decide and site the type of renewable energy that best fits their town and needs.

The second is to review the energy usage of each town. Require each town to develop a renewable energy plan that would meet their needs. Then place a time line for completion.

Right now, the renewable energy law, act 56, creates a “gold rush” mentality. Large industrial projects are pushed on unwilling communities, who feel victimized and disenfranchised. This also causes bitter divisions in a community. This, over time, will reduce support for renewable energy as town after town is victimized by big industrial projects.

I agree with Governor Shumlin when he said, “I have always said and I will always say I believe that no energy project should be built in a town in Vermont where the residents of that community don’t vote to affirmatively host it. We shouldn’t send them into towns that don’t want them.” (2012 VPT interview)

Local control will bring people together to develop renewable energy projects that the community can feel good about. Support for renewable energy will be strengthened by local control. “Your vote is your voice”.

Penny Dubie, Fairfield

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