A drive through Woodstock provides a panorama of rolling green hills, farms and open space. Now, the town wants to add more green with the use of clean energy.
At the last Board of Selectman meeting, a clean energy resolution bill was signed to commit the town to use 20-percent clean energy by 2010. The effort is a collaboration between SmartPower and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and part of a nationwide program to promote clean energy alternatives such as wind, hydro and solar power.
A drive through Woodstock provides a panorama of rolling green hills, farms and open space. Now, the town wants to add more green with the use of clean energy. At the last Board of Selectman meeting, a clean energy resolution bill was signed to commit the town to use 20-percent clean energy by 2010. The effort is a collaboration between SmartPower and the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and part of a nationwide program to promote clean energy alternatives such as wind, hydro and solar power. Woodstock is just one of the 60 Connecticut municipalities involved in the initiative. The state is the first in New England to take such proactive measures to stave off the effects of global warming and take advantage of the readily accessible energy alternatives. Keri Enright, SmartPower Connecticut state director, said though often overlooked, Connecticut is on par with California, the nation’s leader in clean energy programs. In fact, SmartPower has expanded from its base in Hartford and is now developing a program in Pennsylvania, which became interested after seeing the state’s success. “People from California to Maine are talking about Connecticut programs,” SmartPower President Brian Keane said. First Selectman Margaret Wholean said the task is going to be difficult in such a short amount of time. But she received help after being granted state money to pay for half of Town Hall lighting renovations. That’s only the start, according to Wholean. “The biggest thing that, even though we don’t have anything to show yet, are the renovations to the highway garage,” she said. Wholean said she’d like to build the new highway garage so it will use solar and wind power. The location, with its high elevation, is ideal, she said. “We might be able to do something with wind, but definitely solar,” Wholean said. But unless the town votes in January to build a new garage, that plan will have to take a back seat. As part of the agreement of the clean energy bill, the town will receive solar panels as more residents commit to purchase clean energy alternatives through their power company. For each 100 people signed up, the town gets a free 1-kilowatt solar panel. Jim Stratos, an eight-year resident, is one of 51 Woodstock residents who have already signed up to purchase 100-percent clean energy through their utility company. “The warnings are out there. It’s a fact that global warming is here now and it’s our ethical and moral responsibility to act to save our planet for those future generations to follow,” he said. “Hopefully by setting an example others will recognize the importance of right action and move forward to clean our air and support renewable energy.” Josh Pillo, a 20-year-old resident, said it’s a nice thought to use clean energy but not a very feasible one to execute. “It’s a good idea, but they’ve got to go further,” he said. “I just feel like anything Woodstock would do, even if it is big, wouldn’t affect the town as a whole.” Wholean thinks Woodstock is the right town to take on the challenge of moving into a new era of energy use. Aside from Windham and Lebanon, Woodstock the only other town north of Waterford to take part in the program. “I think the town in general is interested in it,” she said. “We have people living off the grid, so to speak.” G. Leslie Sweetnam, a 30-year resident, agrees it is a good move for the town and the state, even if it is long overdue. “I was around in the 70’s during the first energy crisis,” he said. “I believed Jimmy Carter when he said the energy crisis is the moral equivalent of war.” Sweetnam and his family live in a clean energy home. He purchased solar panels last year that generated about 6,000 kilowatt hours of energy with zero carbon emissions. Sweetnam also uses the elements of nature to his advantage by using wood for heat and drying all the family’s clothes on an indoor clothesline. And, with a stone wall and concrete beneath his floor, he said he rarely has to get a fire going unless it is very cold outside. Sweetnam’s future plans include adding a solar-powered hot water heater. In the last year alone, just by adding the solar panels, he said he has cut his electric bill by about a third and hopes to continue to pay less while he adds efficient tools to produce clean energy at his home. “It’s not like we’re better than anybody else,” Sweetnam said. “It’s just something we care about. “There’s so much in the world you can’t change. So we do what we can.” Reach Dustin Racioppi at 334-2497 or e-mail email@example.com.