WATERBURY — Leaders in Waterbury and Duxbury are celebrating the emergence of a local green-energy movement that has seen the communities attain some of the highest per-capita rates of residential solar capacity in Vermont.
A campaign by the local town energy committee, called “Waterbury LEAP,” was credited Monday with helping double solar capacity in the two-town region over the past 11 months. More than 100 houses in Waterbury and Duxbury have been outfitted with rooftop photovoltaic panels, and Duxbury now boasts the second highest per-capita rate of residential solar capacity in Vermont. Waterbury ranks fifth.
From inside the living room of a Waterbury couple who recently had a dozen panels installed on their roof, Gov. Peter Shumlin said a patchwork of renewable-energy policies has enabled the green-energy boom.
“This is the best example of how we can actually accomplish Vermont being the state that gets off our addiction to oil and moves to renewables as quickly as we know how,” Shumlin said. “As we face the challenge of climate change, reducing our carbon footprint, when we lead, others will follow. And that’s what this is really all about.”
Shumlin said a combination of government subsidies and private-sector enterprise has brought solar energy into the mainstream. A local solar installation company, SunCommon, is responsible for installing 475 panels atop local homes.
Jamison Ervin, a board member at Waterbury LEAP, said prices for solar have fallen to within reach of almost all homeowners. While Waterbury and Duxbury rank among the top 10 municipalities statewide for overall residential solar capacity, Ervin said they’ve only scratched the surface. The solar arrays, she said, provide less than 1 percent of local energy needs.
Ervin said that if Vermont wants to meet 90 percent of its energy needs with renewables by 2050 — a goal set out in the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan — then “we must redraw the contours of our ambitions, and we must radically accelerate the adoption of renewable energy by families, schools, businesses and municipalities across the state.”
Shumlin said taxpayer investments in renewable energy technologies, like solar, will yield dividends. But he said the state will have to balance its desire to grow the sector rapidly against the financial impact of green-energy subsidies on ratepayers.
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