Vermont’s Battle for Renewable Energy

American citizens demand dramatic improvements in technology, and technology won’t make dramatic improvements until we commit to it. Well, Vermont has committed to it, and is running into substantial roadblocks — from the citizens.

Vermont has unveiled a comprehensive energy plan that puts an emphasis on, among other things, electric cars and renewable energy sources — sources, officials hope, which will provide the state with 90% of its energy.

However, a proposed solar array in a field south of Burlington, Vermont, met very vocal opposition in a public hearing, as citizens protested the negative aesthetic appeal of the array against the picturesque natural backdrop Vermont for which Vermont is known.

So citizens want power plants that harness renewable energy… they just don’t want to have to look at them. (It’s worth noting that the Vermont Public Service Board approved the project despite the objections, stating that, in this case, the environmental and economic considerations outweighed the visual drawback.)

Since areas of the country whose primary income is nature-based tourism may have a genuine beef with the eyesore created by wind farms or massive solar panel arrays, it may fall to the urban areas to pick up the slack.

Some shopping centers in North Carolina have installed solar panels on their flat, expansive rooftops, and are already seeing the benefits. Some building owners have reported a 40% reduction in their electric bills — during the winter. Obviously that number is expected to go up in the sunnier summer months.

The success of commercial solar panel roofing leads to the obvious question: How feasible is residential solar panel roofing?

“It’s human nature, people don’t want things to change, but I believe there’s a balance,” explains Tom Casey, owner of Climate Partners. “With some strategic effort and planning, large scale renewable energy projects can be implemented with huge success giving communities a voice at the table in terms of design and aesthetics. The reality is this is the direction the world is heading so we need to be bold, take the lead and prove that good things can be done so that other communities can witness that large community projects can be done successfully.”

As fossil fuels continue to run out, the aesthetic concerns about solar paneling may take more and more of a backseat to the environmental and economic issues, and we may have to put our faith in the practical, not the pretty.


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