WAITSFIELD — Nine communities, from Waitsfield to Shrewsbury, will receive a portion of the $440,000 in solar energy grants announced Tuesday.
The grantees include Berlin and a second Mad River Valley community, Warren.
During another stop on his summer solar tour, Gov. Peter Shumlin discussed the grants, and the need to move away from fossil fuels during a tour of Northern Reliability, which specializes in developing electrical systems for large-scale solar projects.
“There is no question in my mind that, if more states would do what Vermont is doing — getting off our addiction to oil, moving to renewables — our kids and our grandkids would live on a more prosperous, livable planet,” Shumlin said. “We can’t move fast enough to stop doing energy the way we were and start doing energy the way we are here in Vermont.”
The announcement came on the grounds of Northern Reliability’s test center, in the shadow of four solar panels nicknamed Larry, Moe, Curly and Shemp. Among other projects, Northern Reliability is studying ways to improve the storage of electricity generated by solar during the day.
All told, the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund awarded $442,750 in grants to create 500 kilowatts of new solar energy, including $80,000 to the town of Waitsfield to install a 102-kilowatt, 330-panel solar project at the town garage to power the town’s municipal buildings.
When completed, Waitsfield’s town office will be the second in the state to be “net zero,” meaning the energy consumed by the building will be no more than the amount of energy generated on site. Hartford has the first net-zero town office in Vermont.
Valerie Capels, town administrator for Waitsfield, said the site has been cleared and installers will break ground on the project “any day now.”
With Waitsfield businesses Northern Reliability and Aegis Renewable Energy — and SunCommon from Waterbury — the Mad River Valley region is one reason why Vermont has the greatest number of solar energy jobs per capita of any state in the country.
“The boon of energy renewables in the state of Vermont has really resulted in a boon of local, skilled jobs in the Mad River Valley,” said Christopher Badger, energy coordinator for the town of Waitsfield.
Other grant awards include:
$125,000 to the Thetford School Board for a 141-kilowatt project at the elementary school.
$80,000 to the town of Warren for a 141-kilowatt project near the elementary school.
$32,500 to the town of Strafford and the Newton School for a 65-kilowatt project.
$31,250 to the Shrewsbury Mountain School for a 25-kilowatt project.
$20,000 for the town of Berlin to install a 16.8-kilowatt array on the roof of the town office.
$15,000 to the town of Sharon for a 12-kilowatt net-metered project.
$13,750 to the United Church of Thetford for a 15-kilowatt array.
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