Duncan McDougall at the Waterbury Local Energy Action Partnership, or Waterbury LEAP, has already succeeded in helping Vermonters in Waterbury and Duxbury double local solar capacity of solar photovoltaic and solar hot water systems installed on their homes. Now, the town energy committee has set out to double that figure again by April 2014.
“We want Waterbury to become the greenest town in Vermont by 2020,” McDougall said. “We take that goal very seriously.”
The mission of getting more solar deployed throughout Vermont is becoming easier, McDougall said. Solar is taking hold, he explained, because the price of solar panels have fallen substantially in the last 18 months, state and federal incentives help make buying solar equipment more affordable and there are an increasing number of local companies that are developing ways for people to lease, instead of purchase, solar equipment.
Volunteer town energy committees like Waterbury LEAP help explain to people how to make the transition to solar. “Solar is really for everyone,” said McDougall, who chairs Waterbury LEAP. “Most people want to do the right thing, but they are so busy, they don’t have time to take the steps. LEAP’s job is to connect them with experts and information so that they take the steps they wanted to take anyway.”
Waterbury LEAP, which undertakes many local projects related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and emissions reduction, was founded in 2007 and is one of more than 100 town energy committees throughout Vermont.
Aside from working with home owners, McDougall and other LEAP volunteers are assisting town officials to help them learn how best to tap into the resources of solar power. He is also exploring ways of having “community orchards” which would allow individuals and businesses to invest in solar arrays even if they can't put them on their own buildings or land.
Waterbury LEAP is hosting its seventh annual LEAP Energy Fair on April 13 at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, Vt. McDougall expects more than 600 people to attend.
McDougall said he was inspired to help start the town energy committee after he began to learn more about the adverse effects of global warming. “When I really grasped the enormity of climate change, I had trouble sleeping at night,” he said.
“I truly believe that through our efforts, Waterbury LEAP can become a model for Vermont and then, in the not too distant future, Vermont will become a model for the country,” McDougall said.