Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Some State Buildings, Including Prisons, Going Solar

Charlotte Albright
Sixty five solar panels are being erected on the grounds of the Northeast Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury.

The state of Vermont is equipping 12 public buildings, including prisons, with solar energy systems. Thursday Governor Shumlin and the leaders of several businesses held a news conference at the first solar array under construction, for the Northeast Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury.

The complex of low buildings surrounded by barbed wired fencing perches on a scenic knoll on Route 5 just south of town.

65 solar panels are starting to rise out of a meadow in the back of the property. Governor Shumlin says the solar power will lower the prison’s electric bill. It’s also creating jobs because the metal fabrication is being done by a local company, NSA.

“This is as good as it gets in terms of ensuring the state is walking the walk, by moving state buildings, including prisons, to green, clean, affordable power,” Governor Shumlin said.

Credit Charlotte Albright / VPR
Andrew Pallito, corrections commissioner, chats with Gov. Peter Shumlin at the solar panel construction site for the Northeast Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury.

The sun tracking panels are designed and manufactured by the Vermont-based AllEarth Renewables. Andrew Savage is Chief Strategy Officer.

“So the benefit from a solar equipment perspective is the sale of 65 trackers and then 65 down the road in Springfield and on around the state,” Savage explained.

AllEarth Renewables has contracted with Vermont to develop a dozen solar projects for state buildings. Most are in the permitting process, and all involve complicated teamwork among private and public players.

The state is not actually buying any of the sun tracking panels. They are being sold to a financier called Solar Sense, which gets the benefit of a federal tax credit.

Another company that benefits is the utility host, Green Mountain Power, which will now have more power to disperse among all its customers—not just the correctional facilities. That’s why it will not be possible for prison superintendent Al Cormier to know exactly how much money his facility is saving by installing these solar collectors.

Credit Charlotte Albright / VPR
A solar sun tracker takes shape at the Northeast Correctional Facility in St. Johnsbury. It's part of a solar project that will help to power 12 state buildings.

“This is directly fed back to Green Mountain Power, so they’ll be dispersing the electricity however they see fit but as a result of us hosting the land for this project to be done we’ll be able to see a reduction in our monthly electric bill as well,” Cormier said.

Estimates of that reduction vary between 5 and 10 percent. The state also gets the benefit of renewable energy credits, which shrinks its carbon footprint overall.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
Latest Stories