Some Stray Thoughts on Solar Power in Vermont
by Bill Bender, President and founder of Solaflect Energy
Although attributing individual events to climate change is fraught with scientific difficulty, frequent and unusually fierce storms these types of events have been one of the main predictions of climate science for several decades, and it is likely that there is a connection. Many Vermont towns are still repairing damage from hurricane Irene, seven years later. Further damage was caused by the violent storms in July of 2017.
- Winters in Vermont feel different than they did a generation ago, and the data confirm that. From the mid 60’s to mid 80’s the top of Mt. Mansfield saw only five winter days where the temperatures stayed above freezing all day. In the past twenty years, there have been 28 such days. Take a peak at the video below (featuring our local winter hero, Hannah Kearney) for more about the perilous state of winter in Vermont if this trend is allowed to continue.
- Things I love about Vermont are threatened and moving further north -- like the moose and the maple trees (along with the maple syrup and the spectacular foliage that attracts thousands of tourists and their dollars). On the other hand, things I love not having in Vermont -- like Lyme disease -- are also moving north and taking their toll on us.
- Vermont was once a staunchly Republican state (yes, there was an unbroken string of Republican governors from 1855 to 1963). Key conservative principles were: self-reliance, independence, and responsibility. Producing our own energy is surely quite consistent with these values, whether you appreciate the aesthetics of solar fields or not. I am a firm believer in the overwhelming scientific consensus of published climate scientists that human's use of fossil fuels is contributing to climate change. Rapidly installing large quantities of solar is consistent with the belief that we need to wean ourselves of fossil fuels for the sake of the environment and our future.
It’s worth recalling that the Vermont landscape has varied immensely over the past few centuries, from 70% clear-cut prior to the twentieth century to 78% forested today. We now find large dairy barns and silos beautiful, and find them completely natural when they appear in landscape paintings, and we barely notice the utility lines running down Main Street. But would we feel the same way if the silos and powerlines had never been here and were just being built for the first time today? I am hopeful that over time the vast majority will find solar aesthetically appealing. My random interviews of out-of-state visitors seem to confirm that they view the solar fields as highly consistent with their perception of Vermont as an environmentally progressive and clean state.
- We are land rich compared to our urban neighbors, and we should support solar as one way to help power the Northeast. Solar power is our newest economic export (along with other land extensive exports such as dairy products, forestry products, maple syrup, etc.), and it can continue to create jobs and long-term economic benefits for the state if only we’ll let it do so.