Schools Share $6 Million In Energy Grants

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(Host) Dozens of schools and towns across the state will share in nearly $6 million to pay for renewable energy and efficiency projects.

As VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the projects range from wood-pellet-fired boilers for schools in East Montpelier and Fayston to a geothermal system at the Sutton School.

(Sneyd) Roberta Stradling says school districts all over Vermont play what she calls "August roulette" every year.

(Strandling) "In August we all spend a lot of time thinking about when are we going to buy oil because we usually pre-buy. And sometimes we win and sometimes we lose."

(Sneyd) Stradling says her annual guessing game about when to get the best deal on heating oil to fire the furnace will soon end.

She’s principal of the Sutton School in the Northeast Kingdom. And it just won $42,000 to install a geothermal system. Water in underground pipes will absorb heat from the earth. That warmth will be concentrated inside a heat pump, which will then push it through a portion of the school building.

The grant program was set up in the 2007 federal energy bill and Senator Bernie Sanders helped write it. Vermont has a long track record for renewable energy and efficiency, and had a fund designed to help connect projects and funding.

But it was last year’s economic stimulus from Washington that finally came up with the cash.

Here’s Senator Sanders.

(Sanders) "If our country gets its act together and moves aggressively in terms of energy efficiency and such sustainable energies as wind, solar, geothermal and bio-mass, over a period of time, we can create millions of good-paying jobs, which will play an important role in moving out of this very deep recession."

(Sneyd) With the new money, 147 projects are being funded. They include new windows and insulation in schools and public buildings, new traffic signals and outdoor lighting that use less power, and more efficient transportation.

Roberta Stradling from Sutton says the money couldn’t have come at more opportune time.

(Stradling) "We were going to have to replace these furnaces. That was going to be next up on the slate. And though the cost of replacing the furnaces is not going to be as much as it is to install the geothermal, we certainly going to reap benefits in the cost of our fuel. And we’re one step closer to pulling away from dependence on fossil fuel."

(Sneyd) Sutton pays between $20,000 and $25,000 a year on fuel oil. The geothermal heat pump will draw its fuel from directly under the school building. And that, Stradling says, is free.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd

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