Vermont isn’t one of the US’s sunniest states but it has big ambitions for the sun and solar power. The state wants to source 20 percent of its energy from solar power by 2025 and ultimately 90 percent of its energy from renewables by 2050. The state and partners recently released The Vermont Solar Pathways study, which illustrates how it can get there.
The new study was led by Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) and its partners, the Vermont Department of Public Service and the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) and was supported by the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. It’s part of the larger Solar Market Pathways Program and aims to make solar less expensive and faster to deploy and give greater potential investors more certainty about investing in solar power.
Still, the challenge is large. “For solar to provide 20 percent of Vermont’s electric supply by 2025 means that we will have increased solar generation by a factor of 8 in a decade,” said study lead David Hill, director of Distributed Resources at VEIC. “Growth of that magnitude is consistent with what we see today, and it will certainly have impacts looking forward. The study identifies those impacts and how to manage them. Overall we found that Vermont’s solar economy is strong and is demonstrating the potential to be a national leader.”
The study found that the goal is attainable. The state will have to install roughly 1 gigawatt of solar power by 2025 and while that will require careful planning and siting of solar projects, it will only require using 0.1 percent of the state’s land to get there—extrapolating from that one could argue the entire state could be powered with solar using roughly 0.5 percent of the state’s land.
The report also found that increasing its renewable energy significantly will result in $8 billion of net benefits by 2050—primarily from buying less gasoline and fuel oil. Indeed, at least one utility in the state, Green Mountain Power, has already demonstrated how consumers are saving money because of solar power and energy storage. The report added that that’s not including environmental and health benefits from reducing carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
The Vermont Solar Pathways report is a very comprehensive analysis of how Vermont can achieve its renewable energy goals,” said Christine Hallquist, CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative who recently sat on a panel discussing the report. “It provides some of the best guidance that I have seen yet on how to optimize our electric grid to support high levels of distributed renewable generation.”Tweet