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Waterbury LEAP, the town energy committee for Waterbury and Duxbury, celebrated its first successful Waterbury/Duxbury Solar Year on Monday, March 11, in Waterbury, at the home of Peter Plagge and Erin Mooney, homeowners who recently installed solar panels on their home.
The towns of both Waterbury and Duxbury were celebrating the doubling of residential solar capacity within 11 months.
Duncan McDougall, chair of Waterbury LEAP, opened the press event. McDougall highlighted the success of reaching the ambitious goals set last April: “Last April at our sixth Energy Fair we set yet another aggressive goal. We announced the Waterbury/Duxbury Solar Year with the goal of doubling the residential solar capacity in Waterbury and Duxbury in only one year. We are here today to celebrate the successful achievement of that milestone in only 11 months.”
The doubling of solar will also be celebrated at Waterbury LEAP’s seventh annual Energy Fair, set for April 13 at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury.
Governor Shumlin praised the progress of Waterbury and Duxbury and thanked Waterbury LEAP and local government for helping to achieve the vision outlined in Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy plan.
“This type of local initiative is just what we need to meet our state’s aggressive renewable energy and carbon reduction goals. We read and hear about towns debating the role of renewable energy in their communities, and too often these discussions focus more on what folks don’t want. Here in Duxbury and Waterbury you’ve focused on the positive clean energy that you do want in your communities. You’ve walked the walk, and my hope is that other towns will follow your example,” Shumlin said.
Peter Plagge, solar homeowner, pastor of the Waterbury Congregational Church and host of the press event, highlighted the moral and ethical reasons that his family decided to install solar panels, stating, “We can no longer think of nature as the self-sustaining machine that western philosophy had proposed…. We must find balance.”
Jessica Edgerly Walsh, lead organizer at SunCommon, a Waterbury-based solar installer, described the financial program that allowed customers like Plagge and many others to install solar without upfront costs, noting, “We help families stay within their current utility budget and we help them power their homes with the energy source they want – solar. We also offer different kinds of financing, including lease and loan options, so that we can find the best fit for every Vermont family.”
Rebecca Ellis, state representative and Waterbury Select Board member, congratulated Waterbury and Duxbury on meeting their ambitious goals and thanked the governor for his strong support and leadership on solar energy.
“It’s always a little frightening to set ambitious goals like this because you might fail to achieve them. I am both impressed and pleased that Waterbury and Duxbury not only met their goals but are on the path to surpass them,” she said.
Tom Stevens, state representative, praised the economic models that allow homeowners to easily install solar, stating, “The secret to a larger transition to renewables is in diversity, but the more important secret is in affordability and ease of transition.”
Jamison Ervin, Waterbury LEAP board member, echoed praise for both towns but cautioned that even this success is not close to what is needed to meet the state’s ambitious goals. She said, “If we are serious about achieving the goals of Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, then we must redraw the contours of our ambitions, and we must radically accelerate the rate of adoption of renewable energy by families, schools, businesses and municipalities across the state.” She cited that “…the single most important policy change that would trigger whole scale adoption of solar would be to allow Vermont’s families and businesses to sell back excess energy to the grid, above what they consume annually.”
As a backdrop to the press conference, Waterbury LEAP displayed more than 100 photos of homes from both towns, with a wide range of solar arrays. The homes ranged from modest mobile and modular homes to expansive homes on large estates. Waterbury LEAP board member Ervin remarked, “This photo display highlights the diversity of solar installations in our towns, proving that renewable energy truly is for everyone, regardless of economic circumstance, and that towns can play a key role in meeting the state’s energy goals.”