You may have heard that I recently submitted a letter to the Valley News regarding a proposed renewable energy project on Co-op land in Norwich, Vermont. The letter, published April 14, was in response to an article that appeared in the April 10 issue of the Valley News. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read both the letter and the Valley News article. The article may prompt more questions than answers at this point, so let me offer a few reflections that may be helpful.
First, not everyone may be familiar with the property, so let me take the opportunity to tell you more about it. This pastoral, 3.5-acre site has been part of the Co-op family for decades. It is owned by the Co-op’s 20,000+ members. Our friends at the Norwich Farmers Market are our guests on the property, and they have been wonderful, responsible stewards of the land. This cooperative relationship has served Norwich and the surrounding communities for many years.
Second, at this point it’s important to understand that this is only a proposed project, with nothing set in stone. The project was pitched to us and not an idea we solicited, and the idea is currently only in the discussion phase. As a result, we believe all voices should be heard, including member-owners, community members, local and regional vendors who provide solar energy, and farmers who have farmstands on the property.
Third, there is a lot to consider here. As I said in the letter, it’s important to remember that collectively, taxpayers and ratepayers fund community solar programs. Among many considerations, the solar project as proposed would limit use of the property for the next 25 years, and its likely price tag of $575,000 should open up the bidding to more than one vendor.
Finally, and most importantly, I’d like to think far beyond one proposed project on one piece of property and, instead, focus on the broader conversation about cooperatives and renewable energy.
As you know, our Co-op cares deeply about sustainability, and we’re long-time supporters of renewable energy. Our Co-op Ends require us to protect and restore the environment to the best of our ability, and we take that responsibility seriously. Solar energy is an important part of this goal, so over the years we have invested in solar hot water systems, solar panels at our Lebanon store, and a solar-powered member and employee resource center in White River Junction, to name just a few projects. We’re always open to possibilities.
So where can we go from here? How can we elevate the solar conversation? How can we keep it local? How can we break down economic barriers? There are great opportunities for our cooperative to address these questions, and we have the collective genius here to effect broad change. I look forward to seeing what we can do together.
Like to talk more about renewable energy at the Co-op? So would I. Reach out to me anytime. My door is always open.