State officials were in Brattleboro this week to discuss how to spend more than $2.5 million earmarked for clean energy projects in Windham County.
The money is part of a final $5.3 million payment by Entergy Vermont Yankee to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund. Entergy has funded the state program since it began in 2005. Those payments will stop when the plant closes at the end of December.
Entergy withheld the clean energy payments during its court battle with the state. The release of those funds was part of an agreement with Entergy approved earlier this year. The deal requires at least half the money to go to energy projects in Windham County, where the plant’s closure will have serious economic effects.
Andrew Perchlik manages the Clean Energy Development Fund. He said the goal of the hearing was to seek local input.
"We wanted to hear what the people of Windham County had to say about this money to spend in their county," he said. "And we’re hoping to spend not only the $2.6 million. We think there’s opportunities here to really help the region; and we think who better than the people of Windham County to let us know."
More than 50 people turned out, for the Brattleboro hearing, many of them seeking funding for specific projects. Proposals ranged from a wood pellet co-op to an anaerobic digester that would produce electricity from food waste at the Brattleboro solid waste facility.
Chris Campany, the executive director of the Windham Regional Commission, cautioned the energy fund board not to move too hastily.
"Our message is, let’s take the time to plan how these funds can best be used to have the greatest impact and leverage these funds to the greatest possible effect, as opposed to just throwing a bunch of different projects at the CDEF board," Campany said. "Let's look within the Windham County context to make these funds go as far as possible."
The fund is accepting proposals for clean energy projects in Windham County now. Perchlik said local stakeholders would continue to be involved in the decision-making process.
As part of the deal that released the clean energy funds, Entergy also promised $10 million over five years to help with economic recovery in Windham County. Perchlik said his board will also work with the region’s economic development planners to maximize the impact of the money available.