WATERBURY, Vermont – The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is seeking to increase renewable energy in the state by jumpstarting small hydro projects. The agency now is working more closely with developers so they understand the feasibility of their sites and the permits that will be required to enable their projects.

Vermont is the only state in the New England region that conducts “prefeasibility assessments” to help streamline the permitting process.

“We cannot be serious about promoting renewable energy if we’re not willing to work with developers to help them get the projects out the door,” said Secretary George Crombie.

“Providing a prefeasibility assessment for small hydro projects is an important step to aggressively pursue the goals the governor set in dealing with climate change while creating some green job opportunities,” he said.

In a report to the Legislature Friday, the agency said Vermont could build up to an additional 25 megawatts of electric generation in its renewable energy portfolio at some 44 sites where there are existing dams.

Improving efficiency at the state’s 78 existing facilities could generate another several megawatts of power.

In total, that is enough extra renewable power to run 25,000 homes in Vermont.

“We should be doing everything we can to re-use appropriate dam sites to generate renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint. This is a strategic piece of the Governors Commission on Climate Change,” said Crombie.

Instate hydropower accounts for about 12 percent of electricity used in Vermont. Applications for 15 new small hydro projects are under review at the agency.

There is opportunity to increase capacity at current facilities, too, Crombie said, adding that replacing aging equipment with modern turbines and installing units that can use “bypass flow releases” would improve efficiency and increase energy production.

The full report will be available online at the agency’s website.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.