As Solar Farms Grow, Debate Ensues

08/11/11 5:50PM

(Host) Vermont is home to an increasing number of solar farms. In addition to providing electricity, they're fueling a debate over whether solar power is a good deal for ratepayers and taxpayers. 

Critics say the potential of solar has been greatly exaggerated and that it's far too expensive to be widely used.

They say it doesn't make sense that government is subsidizing the technology when developers are also allowed to charge more for the power their projects generate.

Tom Evslin is a businessman and former state official. He says Vermont and the U-S need to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.

But he says subsidies for solar electric power contradict the state's goal of reducing our dependence on fossil fuel.

(Evslin) "What we're doing instead is driving up the cost of electrically delivered energy and making it less viable for transportation purposes, for home heating purposes - for all of those applications where in Vermont it would immediately displace oil."

(Host) David Blittersdorf is co-founder of Chittenden County Solar Partners, which operates the state's largest solar farm in South Burlington. He's also CEO of AllEarth Renewables which designs and installs solar systems.

Blittersdorf says fossil fuels have health and environmental costs that have to be factored in when comparing them to solar.

He says if those costs were factored in, fossil fuel would be 10 to 100 times more expensive than it is today.

(Blittersdorf) "It's out of the park. So when you add external costs in, and then you look at incentives - incentives we have for solar and wind - are smaller than the nuclear and fossil fuel industry gets."

(Host) You can hear the full discussion on the solar power debate here.

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solar_power environment politics
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