MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's new Republican governor said Monday he would stick with his Democratic predecessor's long-term goal of getting 90 percent of the energy needed in the state from renewable sources by 2050.
But Gov. Phil Scott, highlighting the construction of a new solar power project in the parking lot of a Montpelier food cooperative, said he believed new technology would be needed to make it happen.
"When you look at projects like this and the way we've changed over the last decade in that regard I think it can be accomplished, but we're going to have to have some help in technology changes," Scott said.
While helping to inaugurate the "Solar Canopy" developed by the Waterbury-based SunCommon, Scott said the business fits in well with the top goal of his new administration, economic development. He said it also creates jobs that keep young people from leaving the state.
For several years, Vermont has been working toward some of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the country. Scott's predecessor, Democrat Peter Shumlin, set the long-term goal.
In his farewell address last week a day before Scott took office, Shumlin said Vermont had the highest per capita number of people working in clean energy jobs in the country. He said the state also had 12 times more solar panels than when he took office and 25 times the wind power.
Still, renewable energy projects, be they ridge-top industrial wind turbines or fields full of solar panels, can generate fierce opposition from neighbors.
Scott said that while he supports the renewable energy goal, communities should have a larger role in helping determine where they are located.
The timber frame "Solar Canopy" erected in the parking lot of the Hunger Mountain Co-op is the first of its kind in the state. The panels are above parking spaces in the store's lot and SunCommon officials said households and small businesses could use it to install solar over driveways, parking lots, patios or woodpiles.
Waterbury-based SunCommon says a solar canopy that covers two parking spaces generates enough solar power for the average Vermont home.
Scott said SunCommon, which was founded in 2012 and employs 70 people, has hired many young people and graduates from the state's colleges and universities.
"Companies like SunCommon, and many others who are creating jobs and innovating here in Vermont, are exactly what we need to reach these (economic development) goals," Scott said.