The Vermont Solar Landscape: A New Perspective

While we all have our critical moments, I feel like most of us, in spite of our personal preferences and ideas, understand that the world is a diverse and evermore complex place, that we all need to give a bit here and there, and that sometimes the things we wouldn’t pick as our first choice turn out to be the ones we really need. Are power lines, paved roads or that ambulance with sirens blaring and lights flashing behind you aesthetically pleasing? Not very, but definitely necessary.

A new perspective on the Vermont solar landscape is very much needed. For decades, review of Vermont renewable energy projects has followed what’s called the “Quechee Test.” The first part of the test asks whether a project has adverse aesthetic impacts; then it moves on to consider whether the project meets community standards or offends sensibilities; and finally to what mitigation measures can be put in place if the answers are yes. The Quechee test came from Act 250 cases and has been around a long time. As you’d expect, capable experts on both sides weigh in on these questions when a Vermont solar or other renewable project is contested before the Public Utility Commission.

The climate crisis requires big picture thinking around preserving the world we share. This isn’t one where an answer jumps out at me, except to say what “we usually do” needs to be on the table as we combat climate change. If starting afresh, what standard would we adopt for our Vermont renewable energy projects? How do we make solar and other renewable solutions part of the Vermont bucolic ideal? Seems like time for that conversation to happen.