Gov. Peter Shumlin is defending his administration's target of having Vermont use 90 percent renewable energy by 2050.

The ambitious state energy plan is coming under criticism from some who question the cost and the feasibility of reaching the plan’s goals.

But the governor says the renewable goal is realistic, and that Vermont must do even more to fight climate change.

VPR/John Dillon

Green Mountain Power faced tough questions on Thursday from regulators who are considering fines against the utility for violating sound limits at its Lowell wind project.

GMP told a skeptical Public Service Board that it did not anticipate that snow build-up would aggravate the sound produced by the turbines blades.

The company has acknowledged that last fall and winter it exceeded sound limits five times at its 21 turbine project on the Lowell ridgeline.

AP/Toby Talbot

The operator of Vermont’s electric grid warns that customers will face higher and higher transmission costs unless some regional power line projects are scaled back or canceled.

The Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) says some costly projects could be avoided in New England as the growth of distributed, solar energy systems eases the strain on the grid.

VPR/John Dillon

Of all the issues surrounding large-scale wind projects, perhaps the most personal and difficult one to resolve is the impact of the sound produced by the turbines.

In Sheffield, a family says they have to move because the noise from nearby turbines has become unbearable.

The state paid for testing last winter that showed the project operates within limits. But the state says the study was flawed and that it’s difficult to draw definitive conclusions from the report.

AP/Toby Talbot

Solar energy projects are blossoming across Vermont, spurred by a state law that allows customers to zero out their electric bill by sending power back to the grid.

But there’s some concern that the solar boom has a downside as it shifts some of a utility’s costs to other customers.

Vermont law allows “net metering.” That means a utility must credit a customer at least 20 cents for every kilowatt hour of renewable electricity they produce.

With hot and humid weather expected to continue for another day or so, ISO New England has asked consumers to voluntarily conserve power during peak hours, especially the afternoon and early evening.

But the current heat wave has not put the strain on New England’s power grid as deeply as in past years.

Dorothy Schnure of Green Mountain Power says that past heat waves set new peaks of usage, and occasionally caused some generating units to go down.

Norwich University/Jordan Silverman

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon will showcase affordable solar homes in California this Fall. An elite group of 20 collegiate teams have designed, built, and operated solar-powered houses that are cost-effective and energy-efficient. Of the 20, two teams are from Vermont. Along with Middlebury College, Norwich University is in the running this year.

The team from Norwich University hopes to do well with their solar-powered, affordable home.  Matt Lutz is a professor of architecture at Norwich who led the student team.

A tentative proposal to build a 2.2 megawatt solar-powered electricity generation plant is no longer in the works but town officials are still hoping to attract a solar project with a request for proposal released last week.

Lee Krohn, Manchester’s planning director and zoning administrator, said he had been considering a solar project for some time.

American Public Media

Friday, July 5, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.   The nation’s electric grid now penetrates all aspects of our daily lives. Our aging electric power grid, the patchwork system that transmits and distributes electricity from plants to consumers, is aging and stretched to capacity.

The nation’s grid, built 50, 60 years ago, is taxed year-round but especially in the summer months with triple-digit temperatures, violent storms and outages when users are relying on their air conditioners.

Towns Going Solar

Jun 21, 2013
Town of Marshfield

A growing number of Vermont towns are taking a look at powering municipal buildings via solar arrays.

This month the town of Thetford sent out a Request For Information to companies that could help the town construct a "community/municipal solar farm."

In Worcester, the select board met with a solar development company earlier this month:

June marks the halfway point of 2013 and, likewise, the midpoint of the year-long Vermont Home Energy Challenge. The challenge was created by Efficiency Vermont, in partnership with Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (VECAN) and other organizations.

Vermont's Department of Public Service is recommending that utility regulators find the Lowell Mountain wind project in violation for exceeding noise limits four times last winter.

But the Caledonian Record reports the department has asked the Vermont Public Service Board not to impose sanctions immediately on Green Mountain Power, which operates the wind project. It recommended that the utility be given time to fix the problems that caused the noise.

How much is a little brown bat worth? According to Green Mountain Power’s calculation, about $1 million a year.

The utility has asked for a state permit to kill four of the endangered creatures a year at its 21-turbine Lowell wind project. GMP says if it has to follow all the protections needed to spare every bat from getting thrashed by the turbine blades, it would cost the utility $4 million a year in reduced power output.

Nina Keck / VPR

Green Mountain Power says there are a lot of Vermonters who’d like to use solar power. But many are unable or unwilling to install the necessary equipment on their homes.  

GMP officials say now, thanks to a new partnership with the nation’s largest solar developer, they’ll be able to offer a new way for customers to take advantage of solar power without installing the hardware. 

The Vermont Public Service Board says the 16-turbine industrial wind project in Sheffield is meeting its noise standards and is in compliance with its Certificate of Public Good.

The board's ruling came in response to a noise complaint filed by Sutton resident Paul Brouha who had asked the board to provide "backup data" used to create the noise monitoring information contained in its quarterly noise monitoring reports.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne says the company appreciates the board's careful review of the project.

AP/Toby Talbot

The Vermont House overwhelmingly passed on Friday a bill that was originally proposed as a moratorium on ridgeline wind development in Vermont. Over the past two months, though, the bill was reduced to a study of how the state approves renewable energy projects.

The House voted 140-to-3 to approve the Senate bill.

A lobbyist for an industry group supporting wind power has apologized to a Vermont Senate committee after a witness she brought in called health concerns connected with wind power "hoo-hah," nonsense and propaganda.

Gabrielle Stebbins of Renewable Energy Vermont called the remarks of acoustics expert Geoff Levanthall unhelpful for the debate and offered an apology to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee after Leventhall testified by phone from England.

Toby Talbot / AP/file

Legislation that began with a proposed moratorium on wind development has been whittled down to a legislative review of how all electric generation projects are sited.

The vote in the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee to approve the much-reduced bill was unanimous. And both sides in the fight over ridgeline wind development say they’re happy with the outcome.

Despite the bill’s brevity, Committee Chairman Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, said the extensive discussion led to a meaningful outcome.