Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords on the
Incorporation of a Renewable Portfolio Standard into H.R. 6, the Energy Bill Mr. President, I want to address some statements made last week, during the debate on the Bingaman amendment #791, regarding community acceptance of renewable energy in Vermont. After I left the floor, one Senator tried to make a point in opposition to the creation of a national renewable portfolio standard by referencing some opposition to a wind power project in Vermont. I want to set the record straight: though we have had some siting issues, Vermonters overwhelmingly support renewable energy over nuclear, coal, or natural gas. Mr. President, the Senate should not confuse local concerns about the appropriate location for wind power siting in Vermont as a monolithic objection to any new renewable energy in my state. In fact, Mr. President, the views are contrary to such a conjuncture, even in the case of wind power. Numerous polls throughout the last decade have consistently shown that Vermonters support wind energy. In fact, a survey in March 2004 found 74 percent of respondents said they would consider wind turbines along a Vermont mountain ridge either beautiful or acceptable. The same survey found 83 percent of Vermonters choose renewable energy from wind, solar, hydro and wood as preferable to other energy sources. Lawrence Mott, Chair of Renewable Energy Vermont, which commissioned the energy poll said, “It’s clear, Vermonters want more renewable energy, including wind turbines, and that they find installation on ridgelines very acceptable.” Vermont’s history with wind power goes back to the turn of the century when farmers used windmills to pump drinking water from their wells. One of the first great experiments in converting wind to energy was conducted atop a peak in Vermont called Grandpa’s Knob in Castleton, Vermont. It was, at the time, the world’s largest wind turbine and produced 1.25 MW with the first synchronous electric generator. I recall visiting this wind turbine with my grandfather, an architect, and we marveled at its beauty and ingenuity. It was the first time energy from a wind turbine was interconnected to the utility grid. Vermont’s interest in wind power has continued to grow since then. Just look at Green Mountain Power’s wind farm in Searsburg, Vermont. Eleven wind turbines generate enough electricity to power more than 2,000 homes, reducing toxic air emissions by 22 million pounds compared to the impacts if that amount of electricity had been produced through combustion of fossil fuels. Vermont has a tremendous capacity for wind power, as several of my colleagues have demonstrated with wind maps produced from the U.S. Department of Energy. Industry representatives in Vermont envision a handful of wind farms scattered about Vermont producing enough electricity to power about 50,000 homes, which would account for about 10 percent of the state’s electricity needs. Last week, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas signed a new renewable energy bill into law. He did so at the manufacturing plant of Northern Power Systems, a world leader in off-grid power systems. Northern Power is about to ship seven 100-kilowatt wind turbines to three communities in remote western Alaska, and the Governor used a 31-foot-long blade from one of these turbines as his writing table. Clearly, Vermont’s Governor and Vermont’s Legislators see the value of renewable energy. A large majority of Vermonters support wind energy and renewable energy. And I am very optimistic about the role wind energy can play in satisfying a growing proportion of this nation’s energy needs.