Montpelier An intriguing battle is shaping up in the Vermont legislature, over industrial wind power.
On one side is the Shumlin administration, wind developers, and pro-renewable energy lobby groups like VPIRG.
Gov. Peter Shumline has been a consistently outspoken advocate for renewable energy. He issued an edict in 2011 that Vermont must be made to obtain 90% of its total energy from renewables by 2050, in the name of defeating the menace of “climate change”.
Last year the Governor asked the legislature to pass a Renewable Portfolio Standard (renamed RESET) to mandate utilities to steadily increase their purchases of wind, solar, hydro, wood, and landfill methane power, until 75% of their power comes from these sources by 2032.
In his January state of the state address Gov. Shumlin strongly endorsed “more smartly-sited renewables to power Vermont”, and went on to favor “renewables on a Vermont scale…homegrown, not corporate grown.” But, curiously, he referred only to solar energy, completely ignoring corporate grown wind power on an industrial scale.
In the 2016 Comprehensive Energy Plan released last week, the Shumlin administration reiterates the “90% by 2050” and “75% by 2032” goals, and proposes a strategy “to facilitate development of instate wind projects in order to achieve the state’s renewable energy goals…”.
The report offers three scenarios for achieving 100% renewable electricity by 2050. Two of the three scenarios require increasing industrial wind generation (from turbines producing more than 500kw) to 750 Mw.
Achieving this level from instate wind farms would mean an increase of 631 Mw. At 2.75 Mw per turbine, this works out to 229 more ridgeline towers measuring 427 feet to the rotor tip. However the best located and most efficient turbines produce their rated power only 37% of the time. To get the full rated power, there would have to be either many more turbines, or natural gas backup plants near each wind farm (unlikely), or backup power from the grid.