Meeting Williston’s Energy Needs into the Future

If we as a state and we as a town are going to get to 90% renewables by 2050 to counter global warming, we will have to address two main energy needs: our transportation methods and our building heating methods. Our vehicles will need to be electric and our homes will need to be electric and biomass. These are daunting challenges split into two components: the devices that we will use and the electric sources of our energy. The first part will be met by the ingenuity of our people and the market place filling our needs as climate change becomes more dire. The second part is something that we as a town can address. We can calculate the energy requirements of the town, now and for our future needs; identify the best sites for wind and solar, have a discussion and come to consensus on which sites meet our criteria the best, pre-permit them and figure out how to build them out (private venture; public/private or town owned). The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission has funds to help towns conduct studies of this nature and is something we should take advantage. Creating power in our town and state will keep about $850M in Vermont; help fight global warming; create local, well-paying jobs; make us a more resilient community and control energy prices going forward. I am suggesting that a group of SW members spearhead this effort to create this plan or form a Town Energy Committee to do this.

Williston’s Carbon Footprint: Why So Big?

There’s an informative Web site offered by the University of California at Berkeley that offers, among other things, a map of the United States showing how many greenhouse gases the average household puts out in every zipcode. Here’s our area:

Williston's Carbon Footprint

You’ll notice that South Burlington and especially Burlington are greener (literally and figuratively) than we are in terms of carbon footprint, but that’s a little misleading: it turns out that cities tends to have lower carbon footprints, but they result in widespread suburbs with larger carbon footprints. Burlington depends on its suburbs, so unfortunately it’s a linked effect.

The good news here is that those of us in the suburbs have an enormous opportunity to reduce carbon footprint, and that anything we learn to do can spread to other suburbs around the world, where we see this same pattern.

It’s hard to make out from the picture above, but look at the blue and purple columns in the graph. Those represent transportation (blue) and heating (purple). Reducing car trips, reducing use of airplanes, carpooling, using mass transit, and electric cars all can combine to drive that blue bar way down. For the purple bar, we have similarly big possibilities, including insulation, weatherization, and air source heat pumps (or if you don’t have a home suitable for one of those, the next best thing would be wood or wood pellets).

As a matter of pride, let’s not be just an average suburban town: there’s a lot more to Williston than that. Let’s show people how a small town like ours on the fringe of a small city can make a big difference.

Goodbye, CCTA!

Here’s an announcement about some great new developments in Vermont public transit from CCTA and GMTA. My favorite is the new feature that will allow finding out exactly where a bus is using your cell phone.

The new CCTA transit center in Burlington, opening in the Fall

The new CCTA transit center in Burlington, opening this Fall

In the coming months, the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) and the Green Mountain Transit Agency (GMTA) will rebrand to become Green Mountain Transit (GMT). In July 2011, GMTA and CCTA became one legal entity, which formalized the operating relationship between the two agencies that had existed since 2003. The rebrand marks an exciting time and will finalize the last step in becoming one unified regional agency.

In conjunction with the rebranding effort, CCTA will roll out a suite of new technologies to improve the customer experience, starting with a new Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system. AVL will provide passengers with real-time bus tracking information straight to their cellphones, improving service reliability and allowing CCTA to communicate changes more efficiently. This highly sought after system has been a high priority for CCTA and its passengers for quite some time. The ability to move forward with this project is due, in large part, to funding provided by the VT Agency of Transportation. “VTrans has been an incredible partner to CCTA and all of the communities that it serves. I think they are as excited about these improvements as we are!” says Karen Walton, General Manager of CCTA

On Tuesday, January 19, the CCTA Board of Commissioners also approved a recommendation from staff to go out to bid for a mobile ticketing system. A mobile ticketing app would allow passengers to purchase fare media directly on their cellphones prior to taking their bus trip. This app will provide convenience for the riders, eliminates the need to carry exact cash fare, and is one step closer to making CCTA/GMTA a paperless system.

These passenger amenities are expected to be implemented during this calendar year before or in conjunction with the highly anticipated Downtown Transit Center (DTC) grand opening. The new state-of-the-art transit center is expected to be complete in the fall of 2016. To track progress on this, and all upcoming projects, visit our website at

About CCTA/GMTA: Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) offers fixed routes, local commuter routes, LINK Express routes, and ADA paratransit services. CCTA also provides shuttles from senior housing complexes to local supermarkets and neighborhood specials for student transportation to Burlington schools. Green Mountain Transportation Agency (GMTA) provides public transportation for Washington, Lamoille, Mad River Valley, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and the towns of Williamstown, Washington and Orange, with connecting services to Chittenden and Caledonia counties.

Learn about Electric Vehicles from this Drive Electric Vermont Presentation


This gallery contains 16 photos.

On June 15th, Dave Roberts of Drive Electric Vermont, an organization that works to help provide information and opportunities for Vermonters about electric vehicles (EVs), gave an eye-opening presentation to Williston residents about electric vehicles. Here, courtesy of Drive Electric … Continue reading

Free solar tours Saturday; SunCommon Solstice Party Sunday

It’s a great weekend for solar energy events in Vermont!

solar tours

First, there’s a series of free solar tours around the state this Saturday, June 20th, including several sites in Chittenden County, like South Burlington, Jericho, and our own town solar array in Williston Village. The tours are sponsored by Renewable Energy Vermont, VNRC, 350 Vermont, and the Sustainable Energy Resource Group. For more information, including an interactive map, see


Second, on Sunday solar installation and design company SunCommon is offering yoga and live music as a solstice celebration in Jericho:

Sun Salutations & Solar
Community Solar Array (CSA)
35 Old Pump Road
Jericho, VT 05465

Books and Links Recommended by Sustainable Williston Members for July

Here are some recent books and links from Sustainable Williston members;

Vermont Climate Assessment from UVM’s Gund Institute
The Vermont Climate Assessment is the nation’s first state-level climate assessment providing data similar to the National Climate Assessment.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert
Reporting and explaining the current mass extinction.

Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing, by Doug McKenzie-Mohr
A remarkable book detailing specific research, facts, and techniques for spreading sustainable ways of life.

Why Geography Matters: More Than Ever, by Harm de Blij
Understanding the most dramatic events in our world through geography.

George Marshall on how to talk with climate change dissenters
Arguing and throwing facts at climate change dissenters, it turns out, is practically useless. What does work to open real conversations about climate change?

Vermont Organization Offers $500 Rebates on Electric Vehicles

The Federal government already offers tax credits of up to $7,500 on the purchase of a new, qualifying electric car. This isn’t just a deduction: a tax credit increases your refund or decreases your amount owed rather than just affecting your taxable income. Well, if that wasn’t enough to whet your wallet, now a Vermont organization called Drive Electric Vermont is offering an additional $500 incentive for each electric car.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Electric vehicles are sometimes restricted in terms of range, though some (the Chevy Volt, for example) have backup gasoline engines, and others (e.g., Tesla models) have such a long driving range that it generally isn’t an issue. Regardless, owning an electric car means changing some habits, including getting used to charging the vehicle, sometimes over the course of hours, rather than filling gas in minutes.

Chevy Volt

Chevy Volt

However, electric vehicles are much less expensive to drive in terms of fuel than gasoline or diesel powered vehicles. Regardless of the source of the electricity, they’re also far better for the climate, though of course the most climate-friendly way to go is to charge your vehicle with a renewable energy source like wind or solar.

Many Vermont communities now offer rapid EV charging stations, sometimes for free. For example, my credit union (Vermont State Employees Credit Union) is adding a new charging station at its Montpelier location.

Nissan Leaf

Nissan Leaf

Electric vehicles do tend to be a good bit more expensive than gasoline-powered vehicles, but Federal rebates and this $500 incentive can help take some of the sting out of that.

Disclaimer: Sustainable Williston has no affiliation or direct experience with Drive Electric Vermont.

Vermont LED Bulb Promotion Saves Money, Energy, and the Climate


Efficiency Vermont has partnered with several electrical distributors to offer LED (Light Emitting Diode) light bulbs at a substantial discount. These lamps are the latest in lighting technology and offer efficiencies much better  than Compact Fluorescent and standard incandescent bulbs. Advantages of LED lamps include:

  • Efficiencies over conventional bulbs. For example, a 16 watt LED bulb will provide the same light as a 75 watt Halogen bulb.
  • These bulbs last and last – they are rated at 25000 hours of use. Conventional bulbs are usually rated to last around 1000 – 2000 hours, so these can nearly pay for themselves in bulb replacement costs alone!
  • Most of them can work with a dimmer and can be had in ‘warm white’ colors to match the light bulbs we now use.
  • There is no mercury pollution when disposing LED lamps as opposed to the compact fluorescent.

When buying LED bulbs you should keep the following in mind:

  • Replace bulbs with matched LED lamps so that they fit into the fixtures you have.  You may need to take in your existing bulbs for correct sizing.
  • Don’t try to save energy by using a ‘dim’ bulb.  A 5 watt LED bulb may look like the one you are replacing, but its light output won’t match the 60 watt bulb you now use.  Follow the guidelines that would tell you to use a 12 watt LED to match the light of your current 60 watt bulb.
  • The LED bulbs are rated at a color temperature, usually in degrees KELVIN .  A ‘warm white’ bulb is rated near 2700 degrees Kelvin.  4000 degree Kelvin and higher bulbs will have a ‘bluish’ light and are a bit harsh in my opinion.

The energy and cost savings are substantial. If you convert your light bulbs to LED, your electrical bill will go down. LED bulbs are most economical when replacing lights that are on most often. Closets aren’t the place to put these bulbs. I have converted 90% of the bulbs in my house to LED and my bill with Vermont Electric is usually less than $60 per month (I also have a propane stove, dryer, and water heater …)  The following is an example of the cost savings of these bulbs over their 25,000 hour life:

12 watt LED to replace a 60 watt conventional light bulb.

Savings:     1,200 KiloWatt Hours (kwhr)  at a cost of $0.17 per kwhr,  Savings =  $204

(and this doesn’t include the savings of replacing more than 10 regular bulbs!)

I have recently adopted Vermont Electric’s ‘Variable Rate Schedule’ which charges more for power at the peak times and substantially less for off peak times.  If most of my lighting happens in the evenings during the peak hours, the cost of electricity increases  to  $0.26 per kwhr and can increase to  nearly  $0.40 per kwhr…  This would result in savings of more than $300 to $480 per bulb over its life… Investing $100 in twenty LED bulbs will return from $4080 to nearly $9,600 over the bulbs’ lifetimes, and save 24,000 kilowatt hours of electricity.

So Efficiency Vermont and these local electrical supply houses are offering these bulbs from Phillips, Sylvania, etc at prices starting at $4.99 per bulb. This is a big savings – costs in the local hardware stores are more like $6 to $25 per bulb even for non name-brand bulbs.

Some of the stores where these bulbs are available are:

  • NorthEast Electrical, 340 Ave D, Williston
    open Mon – Fri, 6:45am – 5:00pm
  • Twin State Electric (behind Pet Food Warehouse on Williston road)
    open Mon – Fri, 6:00am – 4:00pm
  • Walsh Electric, Rt 7, Colchester.  (Just north of Costco)
    open Mon – Fri, 7:00am – 5:00pm

Most electrical supply houses aren’t open on weekends, but they do generally have early morning hours.