ELIZABETH A. CONKEY
BENNINGTON -- It was announced Wednesday by Gov. Peter Shumlin that Bennington’s state office complex would be one of 10 state facilities throughout Vermont participating in a renewable energy initiative.
According to Buildings and General Services Commissioner Michael Obuchowski, the complex was chosen based on its existing energy efficiency. He said that, in the future, it has the possibility of becoming a "net zero" facility, or a facility that produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year.
Seven state correctional facilities, the Pavilion Building which houses the governor’s office, and the state office buildings in Brattleboro have also been selected to participate.
The effort will boost local green energy manufacturing and production, and reduce the energy costs for the power produced by at least 5 percent, resulting in more than $1 million in savings for taxpayers.
"Moving Vermont from fossil fuels to renewable energy is critical," the governor said during Wednesday’s press conference. "The state is leading by example, using solar projects to improve the environment, create jobs for Vermonters, and hold down energy costs for taxpayers."
AllEarth Renewables of Williston is the company that has been chosen to carry out the project, following a competitive bidding process initiated by the state in July of 2011, which sought renewable energy projects for state facilities at competitive costs.
"This is an exciting initiative for Vermont’s renewable energy industry," said Andrew Savage of AllEarth Renewables. "Not only will the state be producing local solar energy with guaranteed taxpayer savings through these contracts, but that work will trigger an entire supply chain of business activity throughout Vermont."
Obuchowski noted that AllEarth will site, permit, and construct the solar projects up to 500kW in size to serve Bennington’s state office complex and the nine other state properties chosen to participate in the initiative.
"This is Vermont at its best, a Vermont company partnered with a Vermont manufacturer, producing renewable energy to support Vermont state government," said Obuchowski.
Annually, the project will produce roughly five million kWh of solar power by way of AllSun Trackers, solar panels manufactured in Williston that will be installed at or around each of the ten state facilities to produce the power.
In the case of Bennington’s state office complex, Obuchowski said a decision has not yet been made regarding the actual location of the solar panels.
"They could be right on the property or they could be located anywhere within the territory," he said. "We’re still in the early stages of the deals."
Under the 20-year agreement, Vermont will save 10 percent for the electricity generated by any of the projects that are hosted on state land.
Additionally, the state will have an option to buy these systems after seven years and again at intervals throughout the contract.
"This is an important and innovative way of achieving what Vermonters want -- cost-effective, clean energy that provides jobs for Vermonters and helps stabilize energy costs for the future," said Mary Powell, president and chief executive officer of Green Mountain Power, the utility serving many of the project sites. "The governor and his administration are to be congratulated for this important initiative showing how customers can participate actively in their energy future."
According to Obuchowski, siting and permitting work on the facilities will begin immediately and the first projects will be complete early next year.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.