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Town and Village

‘We're doing it the hard way’

Solarize Dummerston Task Force works toward goal in the town plan — one residence or business at a time

DUMMERSTON—The Solarize Dummerston Task Force group, operating under the aegis of the town’s Energy Committee, updated the Selectboard on the group’s progress.

With Bruce Clausson and Pam McFadden occasionally chiming in, Stan “Smokey” Howe presented the bulk of the information.

Formed in October 2014, the Task Force is working to meet the Town Plan Goal #14: “to reduce per-capita non-renewable energy consumption 40 percent by 2030 from a 2010 baseline.”

The all-volunteer task force aims to do so by signing up residents and businesses to switch the source of their electricity from “the grid” to solar.

The task force created a 17-page request for proposals (RFP), a website — solarize.dummerston.com, to which Howe reminded the Selectboard “there’s no ‘www’” — and a PowerPoint presentation, which Howe brought to the meeting.

Howe noted that although many other municipalities’ solar projects are organized and supported by governments, “we’re doing it the hard way,” through volunteers, on a grassroots basis.

He did note the task force received a grant from the New England Grassroots Foundation to help with marketing the project, and the group was able to obtain lawn signs, posters, and brochures with this money.

The RFP, which ends on May 1, will help the group decide which pricing model — tiered-pricing, direct-purchase, or community solar — to follow for implementing solar in the town residences and businesses that want to participate.

One major step: choosing a system, and a contractor, that can keep installation costs down.

Other considerations include warranties on the hardware, whether the components are made in the United States, and if the construction will contribute to local jobs.

The group estimates installation to begin seven to nine months after the steering committee is formed. Howe noted the Task Force is slightly behind schedule, but expressed confidence in signing people up.

So far, nine accounts are interested, Howe reported.

Some of the incentives for “going solar,” Howe’s presentation noted, are a 30-percent federal income tax credit for individuals, that all components for solar systems are tax-free in Vermont, and that businesses can get tax credits and depreciation on the equipment.

Howe also presented information on Green Mountain Power’s Net Metering program, where participants can effectively sell electricity generated by their solar unit back to the utility to defray users’ electric bills.

To answer the concern of start-up costs, Howe, echoing the group’s website’s assertion that solar “is no longer just for rich people,” said that “even if you have to finance it for 10 to 15 years, the solar panels last 30 years, maybe longer.”

Conservation Commission member Ed Anthes asked the Energy Committee to involve his group should they decide to locate a solar farm in Dummerston.

Selectboard member Jerelyn Wilson noted Howe’s group is “doing the homework [on solar options] for people so they don’t have to,” and asked the group: “What else can the Selectboard do to support your efforts?”

Howe’s response: “Just get the word out.”

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Originally published in The Commons issue #302 (Wednesday, April 22, 2015). This story appeared on page C1.

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