Incentives Draw 200 Renewable Energy Proposals
10/21/09 7:34AM By John Dillon  Download MP3
(Host) Renewable energy developers have proposed more than 200 projects for Vermont because of financial incentives.
The response was so overwhelming that some biomass and solar projects will be decided by lottery.VPR's John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) The numbers tell the story.
The Legislature last winter established a new program to promote renewable energy. The law guaranteed rates that utilities must pay for various types of green power.
When the bids were opened this week, officials saw that the program had far exceeded expectations.
One-hundred-ninety-six applications were received for solar electricity projects - for a total of almost 172 megawatts of proposed new generation. That's more than 14 times the maximum for solar power allowed under the program.(Seddon) "It was a huge surprise."
(Dillon) Leigh Seddon is vice president for Alteris Renewables, a company that works with solar energy developers.
(Seddon) "We were thinking that perhaps more than 12.5 megawatts would be applied for the first day, but nowhere near 172 megawatts."
(Dillon) Andrew Perchlik is director of Renewable Energy Vermont, which lobbied for the new law. He says Vermont's program has drawn national attention.
(Perchlik) "Since Vermont was the first state to really enact this on a statewide basis, we're going to see pent-up demand that was around the whole country come to Vermont."
(Dillon) The state Public Service Board set a rate of 30 cents a kilowatt hour for solar projects. Lower rates were established for small scale wind, hydroelectric, biomass and methane generation.
The rates are called "feed in" tariffs because they are designed to get new projects quickly into the pipeline.
East Montpelier Democrat Tony Klein sponsored the legislation. He says the program succeeded beyond expectations.
(Klein) "This is what the Vermont economy desperately needs at this moment. What's so exciting to me as a legislator is to see and realize that in May we create this legislation and here we are in the middle of October we almost have boots on the ground ready to get this technology deployed. "
(Dillon) Leigh Seddon of Aleteris Renewables says solar developers responded positively for several reasons.
First, the state set an attractive rate for electricity produced by solar panels. Federal and state tax credits also provide an incentive for companies. And, Seddon says, it's a good time to build solar power plants because photovoltaic modules are getting less expensive.
(Seddon) "We were getting calls from all over the world, Germany, other places that have large solar programs, with foreign investors, developers trying to find out about the Vermont program."
(Dillon) Seddon says companies also wanted to get their applications in now, before the rates are re-examined in January.For VPR News, I'm John Dillon in Montpelier.