9-18-14 – The Growing Sea of Solar Panels

Posted by Rob Roper

Vermont Digger reported on a controversial solar energy project that is being proposedIMG_0743 for New Haven, Vermont. Local residents are concerned that the 40 acre, 5 megawatt installation will be unsightly (understatement), and that the aesthetic impact on the countryside will devalue nearby properties.

Get used to this, folks.

As Vermont attempts to reach its goal of having 90% of our energy, including  what we use for transportation and home heating, come from local, renewable sources by 2050, huge swaths of Vermont’s signature landscape will have to be industrially developed for the manufacturing of electricity.

Meredith Angwin of the Energy Education Project (sponsored by the Ethan Allen Institute) estimated that to generate the 15,000 to 18,000 GWh Vermont would need to meet the 2050 goal, an area roughly one quarter the size of the Green Mountain National Forest would have to be covered with solar panels.

The New Havens have only just begun.

This solar plant, which would be one of the largest in Vermont, would use 40 acres of pasture and farmland to produce just 5 megawatts of electricity (if the sun shines all the time, which it doesn’t).  Vermont Yankee, on the other hand, can produce 650 megawatts of power on a 148-acre facility (of which the actual plant represents a fraction). In other words, the decision to use solar power over Yankee requires the sacrifice of, at a minimum, 5052 acres of Vermont farms and fields.  This is not an insignificant environmental cost.

At some point we’re going to ask ourselves (as will the tourists we encourage to come here) why all the Woody Jackson cows have been replaced by seas of massive, silvery-black billboard looking things. And, what will that mean for the Vermont lifestyle and the Vermont brand?

– Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Cisar September 19, 2014 at 2:51 pm

Are all forms of economic development treated equal under Act 250, or do solar farm developers get special exemptions by the state for developing on 5052 acres?

Reply

Patricia Crocker September 20, 2014 at 1:52 am

I have driven past a few of these, not nearly as large as this article talks about. They are very ugly. Hard to believe the state that banned billboards is allowing these solar farms to crop up all over.

Reply

Jim Bulmer September 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm

That’s a win-win-win. We get rid of the Green Mt. Forest, we get logs to burn, and we get a sea of reflective glass. Only question is “where are the tree guggers when we need them?”

Reply

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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