From VT Digger

January 10, 2016

Guest Editorial from Ranger President, Adam Cohen

The sun provides a predictable energy supply without the price volatility, or emissions, of fossil fuels. The New England region has sufficient solar energy available to power more than 4 million homes. Technological innovations have helped reduce the cost of solar energy by about 76 percent since 2006. And Vermonters believe in both clean energy and nurturing a stronger, more diverse economy. What’s more, Vermont needs more power, at an affordable price, for homes and businesses.

These are the reasons Ranger Solar has proposed to develop five 20-megawatt solar projects in Vermont.

The potential projects in Sheldon, Highgate, Randolph, Brandon and Ludlow are a real, meaningful and measurable investment in Vermont’s economy. Each would generate 20-megawatts of power at prices far cheaper than existing renewable energy facilities, which helps people save money on their power bills.

Over the next 20 years, Ranger’s Vermont solar investments will collectively generate about 1,225 job years, $75 million in labor income, approximately $15 million in tax revenue for the state and local communities and add more than $125 million to Vermont’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We have been working closely with each local community to make our projects among the best-sited solar projects in the state and we are grateful for the local support we have already received.

Perhaps most importantly to Vermonters who champion local solutions to climate change, our projects would each make a very substantial, and economically efficient, contribution to meeting Vermont’s renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction targets. This is a cause our team of veteran renewable energy and environmental specialists believes deeply in. All told these projects could displace over 190,000 tons of carbon, the equivalent of 2,021 cars operating over 20 years, and avoid about $162 million in carbon dioxide emissions costs.

With the closure of aging power plants in New England, the region faces a challenging time ahead as it seeks to provide clean, reliable, and reasonably-priced electricity to consumers. According to the 2015 Regional Energy Outlook issued by the New England Independent System Operator (ISO-NE), the majority of electric generation resources on the New England power system today are traditional, grid-connected generators fueled by imported fossil fuels.

Vermont’s policymakers have established emission reduction goals and renewable energy targets that are consistent with residents’ commitment to combatting climate change while securing the state’s energy future. Yet, Vermont currently ranks 50th in net electrical energy generation by state, and as of the end of 2014, hosted less than 10 percent of New England installed solar capacity. The vast majority is in Massachusetts and Connecticut. We will need to do better if our goals are to be more than merely symbolic.

Ranger’s solar projects are tightly contained and sited in an unobtrusive way, delivering the benefits of solar in the most efficient manner. Relying solely on behind the meter and distributed solar projects will make Vermont’s targets extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach. And small-scale projects come at a higher cost. On the whole, to produce an equivalent amount of energy to Ranger’s projects, would require hundreds or even thousands of smaller developments on the landscape, eating up in aggregate more land while producing more expensive energy.

Meeting Vermont’s energy and economic objectives also requires that Vermont’s utilities stand by their commitment to the triple bottom line of “cost, carbon and reliability” by welcoming the energy diversity and lower costs that Ranger’s solar projects deliver, even if our lower cost power means marginally lower returns for their shareholders.

Ultimately, our goal is to bring new investment and more affordable clean energy to Vermont with projects that make sense for communities, ratepayers and regulators. We understand and value community dialogue, rigorous oversight and siting standards as illustrated by the letters of support we have received from communities like Sheldon. We’re an organization composed of renewable energy and environmental professionals. We’re committed to doing this right. And we look forward to producing affordable, long-term, stably priced power at lower, more economically competitive rates.