Vermont Edition: Power And The People: Citizen’s Role In Energy Projects

Today’s Vermont Edition will look at the role of individuals and energy production:

When an energy project like wind turbines or large-scale solar arrays are proposed to be built, affected landowners find they need to get a deep education on regulatory processes, and fast. On the next Vermont Edition, we look at the quasi-judicial process for reviewing and approving those projects from the citizen’s perspective. Our guest is Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who says there ought to be a less complicated, less litigious and less expensive way for people to play a role in deciding where energy projects are located.

Post comments here, and listen at noon and 7pm today on VPR.

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Geek Things for August 24th

No earthquakes scheduled for today!

  • Greening Your Home, 6PM, Rutland Free Library, Rutland. Free. (Energy)
  • Renewable Energy Workshop, 6:30–7:30PM, Hunger Mountain Co-op, Montpelier. Free; preregister. (Energy)
  • Community Bike Shop, 5–8PM, Bike Recycle Vermont, Burlington. Donations accepted. (Bikes)
  • ‘Petropolis: Aerial Perspectives on the Alberta Tar Sands’, 7:30PM, Film House, Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center, Burlington. $10 suggested donation. (Environmentalism / Documentary)
  • Monarch Butterfly Tagging, 3:30–5PM, North Branch Nature Center, Montpelier. Free. (Nature)
  • Magic Booster Draft – $12, 6pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • Pathfinder Society, 6:30pm – 11:00pm, Game Lounge, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • Batteries & Motors, 11:00 am, Monshire Museum of Science, Norwich. (Kids)
  • Mirror, Mirror, 3:00 pm, Monshire Museum of Science, Norwich. (Kids)
  • Learn About Simple Touch, Our Newest eBook Reader! 5:30 PM, Barnes and Noble, South Burlington. (eReaders)
  • Learn the Japanese Art of Origami, 10am, Congregational Church, Waterbury. Pre-reg. 244-7036. (Origami)
  • Naruto, 4:30pm – 8:00pm, The Gamer’s Grotto, Bennington. (Gaming)
  • Wednesday Night Board gaming at Triple Play, 6:00pm – 10:30pm, Triple Play, Lebanon NH. (Gaming)
  • D&D Encounter, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, The Gamers Grotto, Bennington. (Gaming)
  • L5R Night at Triple Play, 6:30pm – 10:00pm, Triple Play, Lebanon NH. (Gaming)

Vermont’s Largest Solar Farm Opens

South Burlington Solar Farm

Yesterday, Governor Peter Shumlin activated Vermont’s largest solar farm, located up in Burlington. The 2.2 MW installation, which contains 382 solar trackers, which contain over 9000 panels. The instalation as a whole will provide 40% more power than fixed panels, as these orient themselves towards the light for the maximum efficiency.

From the Burlington Free Press:

Blittersdorf is president and chief executive officer of AllEarth Renewables in Williston, which designed and built the trackers that now stand in South Burlington at the end of Dubois Drive.

“I told you I’d get tough things done if you elected me governor,” Shumlin quipped as he pressed the button Wednesday afternoon.

After a delay of a few seconds, a flattened 20-by-22-foot panel began to turn on its tower with the click and whir of a small electric motor, then tilted slowly downward, stopping when it squarely faced the sun in the western sky. A crowd of more than 75 supporters, contractors who worked on the project and state officials applauded as the last tracker in the 25-acre meadow locked into place.

Blittersdorf said the GPS-controlled panels making up the 2.2 megawatt farm produce 40 percent more power than fixed panels by tracking the sun. There are 9,000 solar panels mounted on the 382 trackers, producing enough power for more than 400 homes, Blittersdorf said.

“There are towns in Vermont with that many homes,” he said.

Earlier, Shumlin praised the solar farm as “an extraordinary example of how to get it right in Vermont,” citing the genesis of the solar tracker as an idea Blittersdorf sketched out on a napkin several years ago while eating at a restaurant in Burlington.

Read the full article here.

The installation is owned and operated by AllEarth Renewables, the product of many years of work and planning. The organization has a long history with renewable energy, going back to the 1982s, working with both Wind and Solar power:

AllEarth Renewables has over 25 years of experience designing and manufacturing wind and solar renewable energy systems. It began with the pioneering vision of its founder, David Blittersdorf.

David grew up in Pittsford, Vermont within view of Grandpa’s Knob, the site of the world’s first large-scale wind turbine, which inspired his early fascination with creating clean energy from the wind. During his teenage years, David began tinkering with model wind turbines for fun. His hobby became a passion in 1973 during the Arab Oil Embargo. With his first driver’s license in hand and gasoline in short supply, the effects of our nation’s oil addiction became painfully clear. So, for his senior year engineering project at the University of Vermont, David built his first working wind turbine.

In 1982, when the wind energy industry was in its infancy, David founded NRG Systems, a pioneering manufacturer of wind measurement systems. Today, NRG products can be found on every continent, in more than 130 countries, serving electric utilities, wind farm developers, research institutes, government agencies and universities.

In 2005 David founded Earth Turbines to pursue his passion for designing a reliable, durable small-scale wind turbine. In 2009, Earth Turbines introduced the AllSun Tracker and added solar energy systems to the company’s product portfolio, which required an update of the company name to AllEarth Renewables.

Today, AllEarth Renewables is a dedicated team that brings this heritage of engineering expertise, marketing experience and commitment to renewable energy full circle: developing small-scale wind and solar energy systems that promote a secure energy future for individual homeowners, businesses and the planet.

For more information on their work, go here.

Geek Things for June 28th

  • Community Farm Work Day, 4–6PM, Community Farm, St. Johnsbury. Free. (Farms)
  • Public Forum – How Vermont will meet its energy needs far into the future, 6–9PM, Cafeteria, Colchester High School, Colchester. Free. (Energy)
  • Efficiency Vermont Meeting, 8-10am, Board Room. 8–10AM, Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center, Burlington. Free. (Energy)
  • Green Drinks, 6-8pm, Lake Lobby, Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center, Burlington. Free. (Environmentalism)
  • Historic Tours, 9AM–5PM, Wilson Castle, Proctor. $10. (Castle)
  • ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’, 10AM, Catamount Arts Center, St. Johnsbury. Free. (Films)
  • Tuesday Night at the Movies – Nosferatu. A piano player provides accompaniment. Open discussion follows. 7PM, Big Picture Theater & Café, Waitsfield. $8. (Films)
  • Game Day, 9:30–10:30AM, Champlain Senior Center, McClure MultiGenerational Center, Burlington. Free. (Kids)
  • Open Computer Time, 3–4:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Creative Writing Group, 10:30AM, Champlain Senior Center, McClure MultiGenerational Center, Burlington. Free. (Writing)
  • Willem Lange & Mary Azarian – A Dream of Dragons: A Saga in Verse, 7PM, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier. Free. (Books)
  • Boardgame Night, 6pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • HeroClix!, 7:30pm – 11:00pm, Quarterstaff Games, Game Lounge, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • CliF Presentation, Richford Daycamp, Richford, (Kids)
  • Magnets, 11:00 a.m., Monshire Museum of Science, Norwich. (Kids)
  • Who Sank the Boat? 3:00 p.m., Monshire Museum of Science, Norwich. (Kids)
  • Vermont Book Shop Book Discussion, 7:30 – 11:59pm, 51 Main @ The Bridge, Middlebury. (Books)
  • Red Cross Blood Drive. 12:30-5:30pm, Bethel White Church, Bethel. (Blood Drive)

Geek Things for June 9th

  • Public Forum – How Vermont will meet its energy needs far into the future. 6–9PM, Riverside Middle School, Springfield. Free. (Energy)
  • Basic Bike Maintenance, 5:30–6:30PM, Skirack, Burlington. Free. (Bikes)
  • Chess Club, 7PM, Faith United Methodist Church, South Burlington. $2-3. (Chess)
  • Open Computer Time, 3–4:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Understanding & Protecting Intellectual Property. Preregistration requested. 7-9pm, Dean’s Conference Room, Morrill Hall, University of Vermont, Burlington. (Copyright)
  • Green Mountain Global Forum – The astrophysics of the warming of planets throughout the history of the solar system in “Just How Hot? Climate Change and Lessons From the Universe.” 7PM, Big Picture Theater & Café, Waitsfield. Free. (Astrophysics)
  • ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, 8PM, 11:59PM, Merchants Hall, Rutland. $18-20. (Theater)
  • Warmachine / Hordes, 5pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games Gamespace, Burlington. (Gaming)

Bringing Smart Grid To Vermont

Today’s Vermont Edition on VPR will be about Smart Grid technology and the state’s energy needs. Here’s the preview:

In 2009, the Department of Energy awarded Vermont $69 million in stimulus funds for the implementation of a statewide smart grid. The project will cost an estimated $138 million; Vermont utility companies are paying for the other half. The goal is that, by the end of 2013, nearly every home and business in Vermont will have a smart meter installed – which will let consumers (and utility companies) monitor their power usage on a daily basis. With a smart meter, consumers will be able to tell how much power they used doing laundry, or cooking dinner, rather than just finding out how much they used per month, in a bill.

We talk to Elizabeth Miller, commissioner of the Department of Public Service, and Paul Hines, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Vermont whose research focuses on the stability and vulnerability of the electric grid, about how far along smart grid implementation is, and what effect it will have on consumers, businesses and greenhouse gas emissions.  We’ll also hear from Chris Dutton, President and CEO of Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO).

Geek Things for May 17th

  • Essex CHIPS Community Forum, 9AM–12PM, Essex CHIPS & Teen Center, Essex Junction. Free. (Awareness)
  • Transition PechaKucha, 7–8:30PM, Big Picture Theater & Café, Waitsfield. Free. (Energy)
  • Way to Go! Commuter Challenge. Visit waytogovt.org for details. 12AM–11:59PM, Various locations statewide. Free. (Environment)
  • Raptor Encounter, 11AM, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Quechee. Regular admission, $8.50-10.50; free for kids 3 and under. (BirdS)
  • Talk to the Trainer, 2PM, Vermont Institute of Natural Science Quechee. Regular admission, $8.50-10.50; free for kids 3 and under. (Birds)
  • Creative Tuesdays, 3–5PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Kids)
  • Open Computer Time, 3–4:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Science & Stories – Fireflies and why they light up. 11AM, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Burlington. Regular admission, $9.50-12.50; free for kids 2 and under. (Kids, Science)
  • Wild Edible & Medicinal Plant Walk – Preregister. 6–7:30PM, Wisdom of the Herbs School, Woodbury. $10; no one turned away for lack of funds. (Plants)
  • Howard Coffin – The Civil War’s effect on Vermonters. 7:30PM, Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, Burlington. Free. (History)
  • Bill Schubart – ‘How easily food can overwhelm a life’, 6PM, Phoenix Books, Essex. Free. (Food)
  • Henry Homeyer – ‘Organic Gardening (Not Just) in the Northeast’ 7PM, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier. Free. (Organic)
  • Boardgame Night, 6pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • HeroClix!, 7:30pm – 11:00pm, Game Lounge, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • CLiF Authors and Illustrators – John Steven Gurney, Fisher Elementary School, Arlington. (Kids)
  • Red Cross Blood Drive, 12-5:30pm, Northfield High School, Northfield. (Blood Drive)

Geek Things for May 11th

  • Tree Walk & Talk – Craig Lambert , 5:30–7:30PM, UVM Horticultural Research Center, South Burlington. $10-20. (Trees)
  • Energy Workshop – Preregister; lunch is included. 9AM–12PM, Doubletree Hotel, South Burlington. Free. (Energy)
  • Raptor Encounter, 11AM, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Quechee. Regular admission, $8.50-10.50; free for kids 3 and under. (BirdS)
  • Talk to the Trainer, 2PM, Vermont Institute of Natural Science Quechee. Regular admission, $8.50-10.50; free for kids 3 and under. (Birds)
  • High School Book Group, 5–6PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Middle School Book Group, 4–5PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Brian Tokar – “Genetically-Modified Organisms and the World Food Crisis” Preregister. 7–9PM, City Market, Burlington. Free. (Talk)
  • Magic Booster Draft – $12, 6pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • Green and Growing. Dress for a walk on the trails. 10-11:30am, North Branch Nature Center, $5 per child, Info 229-6206. Montpelier. (Kids)
  • Naruto, 4:30pm – 8:00pm, The Gamer’s Grotto, Bennington. (Gaming)
  • Wednesday Night Board gaming at Triple Play, 6:00pm – 10:30pm, Triple Play, Lebanon, New Hampshire (Gaming)
  • D&D Encounter, 6:00pm – 8:30pm, The Gamers Grotto, Bennnington. (Gaming)
  • Middlebury Arts Walk, 5 – 7pm, 51 Main at the Bridge, Middlebury. (Art)

Geek Things for May 10th

We missed yesterday (I was out sick). Here’s what’s on the docket for today:

  • Energy Workshop, 9AM–12PM, Holiday Inn, Rutland. Free. (Energy)
  • Green Drinks, 6–8PM, The Skinny Pancake, Montpelier. Free. (Environmentalism)
  • Radio Amateurs of Northern Vermont Ham Radio Club Meeting, 7–9PM, O’Brien Civic Center, South Burlington. Free. (Radio)
  • Raptor Encounter, 11AM, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Quechee. Regular admission, $8.50-10.50; free for kids 3 and under. (Birds)
  • Talk to the Trainer, 2PM, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Quechee. Regular admission, $8.50-10.50; free for kids 3 and under. (Birds)
  • Open Computer Time, 3–4:30PM, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington. Free. (Teens)
  • Science & Stories, Seeds, 11AM, ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center, Burlington. Regular admission, $8.50-10.50; free for kids 2 and under. (Kids)
  • Garrett Graff – The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror, 7PM, Bear Pond Books, Montpelier. Free. (Author Talk)
  • Boardgame Night, 6pm – 11pm, Quarterstaff Games, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • HeroClix!, 7:30pm – 11:00pm, Game Lounge, Burlington. (Gaming)
  • Red Cross Blood Drive, 13:30-6pm, Hazen Union High School, Hardwick. (Blood Drive)
  • Green and Growing. Preschool discovery program for kids age 3-5. 10-11:30am, North Branch Nature Center, Montpelier. $5 per child, Info. 229-6206. (Kids)

Nuclear Power that Wasn’t

Seven Days has posted up a facinating article about two other proposed Nuclear Power Plants that could have been located in the state of Vermont, but were rejected by citizen movements against their construction:

But what if a nuke with a 50-story-tall smokestack had been built in Orwell, alongside the Mount Independence historic site and half a mile from a fault line? And how would Chittenden County residents feel about a nuclear plant with roughly twice the generating capacity of Vermont Yankee on Lake Champlain in Charlotte?

Those weren’t hypothetical questions 40 years ago. Few remember the controversies today, but in the 1960s and ’70s, Charlotte and Orwell were seriously considered as sites for nuclear energy facilities.

Nascent citizen movements put an end to both plans. And their victories helped nurture a conservation ethic that has since spread around the world.

Many concerns were expressed in regard to the nuke that Central Vermont Public Service proposed for Charlotte, recalls Nancy Wood, now the editor of the Charlotte News. “The big one that ended the idea of the plant was the impact of thermal pollution on Lake Champlain,” she says. Activists associated with the Lake Champlain Committee argued in the late-’60s that heated water discharged from the 1000-megawatt station would badly damage the lake’s ecosystems.

In Orwell, the fledgling Vermont Public Interest Research Group aided locals opposed to a later plan by the same utility and by the Vermont Electric Power Co., aka VELCO, for what would have been known as the Hough Crossing nuclear plant. One of the key objections involved its potentially destructive impact on Mount Independence, which was then gaining recognition as Vermont’s most important Revolutionary War site. The Orwell plant was “the first project of its kind defeated for reasons of historic preservation,” says Shoreham attorney Ron Morgan, a leader of the Mount Independence Coalition.

Two other locations in Vermont came up as potentially suitable for nuclear plants in addition to the one on the Connecticut River that became the home of Vermont Yankee. CVPS spokesman Steve Costello says his company purchased “several hundred acres” in Shoreham in the ’60s with a view toward possibly constructing a nuclear or fossil-fuel facility there. At least theoretical consideration was also given in a 1974 VELCO report to splitting atoms for energy on the banks of the Missisquoi River in North Troy.

Full Article

This is the first that I’ve heard of these two plants, and despite the numerous issues that we’ve seen with Vermont Yankee, I can’t help but wonder what the state would have been like with these types of resources at our disposal. Despite the problems in Japan, the risk with earthquakes here is rather minimal: the bigger issue seems to be with the actual handling of the plant itself, as Vermont Yankee seems to have pieces falling off of itself every couple of months, or springing a leak. I’m not overly concerned with the safety of nuclear power: the health record, especially placed into context with things coal and oil fired power plants, looks much better.

Additionally, what could have happened in Vermont with the power avaliable the state at these sites? Safety and risks non-withstanding, Vermont Yankee provides a lot of power to the state, and there are persistant rumors that IBM wouldn’t be thrilled with the loss of Vermont’s only nuclear power plant. Would we have gained other, high tech industries here in the state? It’s a game of ‘what if’ that we might see happen in the state when VT Yankee goes offline.

That being said, I’m really beginning to dislike the passive-aggressive ads that have been playing on 107.1 FRANK FM that has people talking about the jobs that could be lost with the closure of the plant, and how horrible that would be. Yes, while I agree that the loss of jobs in this day and age is not a good thing, that shouldn’t be the defining criteria or motivation for keeping it open, especially as the plant has some serious issues that have undermined our confidence in the running of the plant. While it’s power for the State, I really don’t think that an increased risk is a good thing for all Vermonters. It’s best to play it safe here.