ST. ALBANS — The Northwest Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) with use of state funds will create an energy plan for Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

Two hearings are to be held during which area residents, in addition to other questions, will be asked to express their views on the siting of renewable energy projects.

The purpose of the hearings is to get input “on where they (area residents) want to see renewables or don’t want to see renewables,” said Taylor Newton, of NRPC.

These are timely points as permitting already is underway for the seven-turbine Swanton Wind project near the Swanton/St. Albans Town border off Route 105, and large solar installations on leased farmland in Highgate and Sheldon.

However, projects already under consideration are not on the agenda, said Newton.

NRPC is a party to all renewable energy projects seeking a certificate of public good under Act 248. With a regional energy plan, NRPC will be able to say if future projects conform with the plan when providing testimony to the Public Service Board.

Bob Buermann, chair of the NRPC board, said, “We are honored to have this opportunity to develop our regional plan and show that local involvement can have a positive impact in selecting suitable locations for energy generation.”

In addition, said Taylor Newton, of NRPC, “We’re hoping to look at siting both broadly and narrowly.”

An 11-member energy committee of the NRPC has already begun considering what types of resources, such as prime agricultural soils and wetlands, might need to be protected.

The final plan will include a map identifying possible future locations for renewable energy as well as areas where mitigation would be required, explained Newton.

Another section of the NRPC project focuses on how much energy is being consumed locally and how much would be needed to meet the state’s goal of producing 90 percent of the state’s total energy demand from renewable sources by 2050.

The types of renewable energy under consideration include wind, solar, hydro and biomass.

Biomass has the advantage of potentially being used for heat generation as well as electricity. However, biomass creates greenhouse emissions, which the state is seeking to limit.

NRPC is one of three regional planning commissions that received funding from the Dept. of Public Service to craft a regional energy plan.

In announcing the public sessions to be held next month (see accompanying information), the organization in a statement issued Tuesday said, “This is an excellent opportunity for the public to contribute to the conversation about the siting of these facilities and their implications, both positive and negative, upon the region and the state.”

Energy plan hearings set
The first Northwest Regional Planning Commission public meeting on the proposed Franklin and Grand Isle counties’ energy plan will be Monday, Nov. 2, at the North Hero Elementary School from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The second will be on Monday, Nov. 9, at the Enosburgh Public Safety Building from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.