Encore Redevelopment, a firm specializing in the use of environmentally challenged sites for renewable energy projects, is again looking at the capped former landfill off Houghton Lane. This should signal that a new era of energy production could be closer than most believe.
The Burlington company approached Bennington officials in 2010 with a plan to install 750 solar panels at the former town landfill, a Superfund site owned by the town. The firm proposed funding all costs associated with the 150-kilowatt project, and electricity would have been sold to the town at a 10 percent discounted rate.
However, further discussions with town officials revealed that the electricity rate the company could offer the town was still higher than the current market rate. The deal fell through and both sides agreed to revisit the idea if the market changed.
On Monday, though, company representatives said during a Select Board meeting that new legislation and decreases in solar panel pricing in the last six months have "fundamentally changed the community scale renewable energy landscape."
The company said it has programs, experience and a "network of finance partners" to help communities and businesses use locally generated renewable energy.
Town officials are expected to renew negotiations with the firm over a possible solar farm project at the former landfill site, one likely to benefit the company, the town and the environment through production of pollution-free electricity.
The county also should note the beginning of construction of a 10-acre solar facility at Green Mountain Energy Park in Pownal, the former race track site off Route 7, as well as increased use of solar panels and other alternate energy installations at private homes and businesses.
And Governor Peter Shumlin has been in the forefront of efforts to promote, and fund, alternate energy and energy conservation projects in the state.
It might not be long before solar, wind, geothermal and other non-polluting forms of power and heat generation are the norm rather than a somewhat exotic alternative. Vermont and the Bennington area should get in front of that curve and ride it into the future.