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Windsor volunteers explore, share energy options

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2019 10:11:04 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 10:10:53 PM

WINDSOR — Along with promoting weatherization and conservation and solar projects, a new energy committee in Windsor aims to tap another source of power.

“We’ve had an influx of young 30-somethings into town in recent years, a lot of people who worry about the future of the planet,” committee member Hamilton Gillett said Thursday. “There’s a new energy. It is our hope that some of those people will jump on board.”

As one of its first steps toward that end, the ad-hoc panel on Friday night will host a “Button Up Workshop” at the town’s welcome center, where experts from Efficiency Vermont will show homeowners and business figures how, through rebates and other financial incentives, they can tighten their properties against the weather.

As an additional incentive for residents to attend the 6 p.m. workshop — and to learn what else the committee plans for the coming months and years — the panel is offering homemade dessert, courtesy of member Diane Foulds.

“I’ll be pleasantly surprised if 50 or so people show up, and we run out of pie,” said Gillett, whose day job is encouraging community recycling for the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission. “An event like this is a good start, to see what kind of interest there is.”

Projects that the Windsor group, which was formed in the spring, is starting to explore include a community compost and a downtown community garden, Foulds said this week. She added that the regional commission has been helping Windsor’s planning commission “put more emphasis on energy efficiency in the new town plan, which is still under discussion by the Selectboard.”

The group also hopes to see the town encourage projects such as the 500-kilowatt solar array that businessman Terry McDonnell is preparing to erect at the former site of Windsor’s Goodyear plant, with the guidance of the regional planning group.

“Windsor has lagged behind its neighbors in getting active on a grass-roots level,” Foulds said, pointing to public opposition that “scuttled” a large Green Mountain Power project near the former state prison in 2015. “The episode embarrassed the town and drew criticism that the majority of the town’s inhabitants had not had a say.”

Windsor’s is the newest of 34 town and city organizations with which the nonprofit Vital Communities is working on energy projects. Along with Canaan, Piermont, Plainfield and Vershire, the Windsor group meets and operates on an ad-hoc basis, not yet formally working at the behest of the Selectboard. Those working for elected governing bodies are Barnard, Bethel, Claremont (city council), Enfield, Grantham, Hartford, Lyme, New London, Norwich, Orford, Sharon, Springfield, Vt., Strafford, Thetford and Tunbridge.

Groups operating as subcommittees to municipal conservation or planning commissions and boards, or to sustainability committees, include Bradford, Vt.; Hanover; and Woodstock.

Whatever umbrella covers volunteers pursuing energy projects, Thetford resident Bob Walker welcomes the emergence of new, active groups. From 2001 to 2016, as founding director of the nonprofit Sustainable Energy Resource Group (SERG), he and his partners “intentionally worked toward forming energy committees,” among them Thetford’s, and helped incubate about 20 in all. He merged SERG with Vital Communities three years ago.

The Thetford panel, on which Walker still serves, started by offering energy-efficient light bulbs during Town Meeting in 2002. That tradition grew to include a “suitcase” of energy-saving devices, among them efficient shower heads.

“We wanted to undertake programs that were visible, with a high probability of success, so people knew we were there and willing to help,” Walker said. “We also offered to go out into the community, which led to the ‘Button Up’ program. It can help homeowners identify ways to save energy and save money. Some people still feel there’s an either-or, pay more money or save energy. There’s a lot of times when you can do both.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.

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