Vermont has a fast-growing renewable energy industry and Gov. Jim Douglas recently announced he'll travel with a delegation to China to expand the market.
"The focus is going to be environmental engineering, energy efficiency and high- tech sustainable energy and sustainable industry," B
Douglas said. "Firms will hopefully be a part of our delegation, along with people from the academic world where they're focused, with the University of Vermont, on developing this sector as a core curriculum lead to creating more jobs."
"The focus is going to be environmental engineering, energy efficiency and high -tech sustainable energy and sustainable industry. Firms along with people from the academic world with the focus from the University of Vermont on developing this sector as a core curriculum lead to creating more jobs," Douglas said.
A diverse range of renewable energy sources has been developing in Vermont over the last several years. There are methane digesters at dairy farms and landfills, a number of public and private buildings that use photovoltaics and solar heating, the Searsburg Wind Farm, hydrogen fuel-cell research and development, and other fuel alternatives.
Two state government offices are heated and cooled by geothermal power, Douglas said, and Vermont is the first state to create a separate energy-efficiency program from most utilities. Several government buildings, schools and private buildings get their energy from wood chip-burning plants.
While many states, including Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey and California, are taking the lead on renewable energy and climate change resolution, the governor suggested that for Vermont, energy efficiency and conservation fit well with the kind of lifestyle people already expect. Renewable energies and environmental clean up companies are the "right fit" for Vermont, Douglas said. Instead of investing mainly in one source of alternative energy, Vermont has a diverse portfolio of energy options.
Upcoming hearings in Congress on climate-change legislation and push from industry officials for federal action lead most to believe there will soon be federal mandates of some kind regarding greenhouse gas emissions. States have been fighting the battle for some time now and Douglas said he's hopeful for national and international cooperation.
While Vermont and other states are rapidly developing renewable energy sectors, high capital cost of projects, high transportation costs and transmission challenges challenge growth in new or expanding companies.
The governor cited Canada as the state's largest trade partner and China, as the second-largest. In going to China with representatives from the many prospering green energy businesses, Douglas hopes to share their knowledge about environmental and energy issues as well as open the markets up to new customers overseas.
"We've taken the initiative here; often states are at the forefront of change and reform well before the federal government," he said. "We took it upon ourselves here in the northeast to create the regional greenhouse gas initiative and we're proud that I was the first governor to sign on after (former Gov. George Pataki) proposed the regional cap-and-trade system," Douglas said.
He suggested Canada or at least some of Canada's provinces may want to join in the initiative and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has mentioned his interest. There is also a recently announced southwestern state initiative and renewable portfolio standards in the majority of the states.
Douglas, along with hundreds of other leaders, signed the 25×25 resolution, committing to providing 25 percent of energy with renewable resources by 2025. Funding for many of the startup companies and renewable projects is through grants from the state as well as the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, a large amount of private money and loans are used.
For a small state of 600,000, Vermont companies supply large customers with renewable energy tools. Draker Solar, based in South Burlington, provides data-logging systems primarily to solar power customers in California.
The system, about 1 to 2 percent of project costs, incorporates Campbell Scientific products and allows remote detection of equipment malfunction through a series of troubleshooting alarms. Draker is one of about five companies that provides a method for tracking performance of solar and wind projects.
Draker's founder, A.J. Rossman, said the goal is to improve the performance and perhaps even the manufacturing design, of solar and wind projects to allow maximum efficiency.
Advances in electricity grid integration and troubleshooting software are leading to a more performance-based incentive from state governments that will cause a greater increase in performance and efficiency of solar, wind and other renewable projects, Rossman said.
Central Vermont Power Systems has signed three farms to date on to its Cow Power program that uses waste from the dairy cows to create methane that is trapped and used to generate electricity. The Washington Electric Coop also uses methane trapped at the Casella landfill to generate electricity.
Biocardel will soon use Canadian soybean oil and locally grown canola oil to produce biodiesel fuel for local blenders. Distributed Energy Systems develops smaller, less costly and more efficient self-contained power systems and wind turbines sold across the United States and internationally through development partners.