A Statement From Sen. Bernie Sanders

I’m delighted to be here today to break ground on a very important project for the Vermont National Guard, the State of Vermont, and really our nation as well. Let me first say thank you to General Dubie, and all of the men and women of the Vermont National Guard here today, for not just your support, but also your enthusiasm for this project. 

It is appropriate that we are here today to break ground on what will be one of the largest solar energy projects in Vermont, because Vermont is one of the most environmentally conscious states in our nation. We lead the country in energy efficiency and, through projects like this, are making progress in increasing our use of sustainable energy.

It is also appropriate that this project is located at our Vermont National Guard Base, because as much as anyone, our military service members understand the critical importance of breaking our dependence on foreign oil, and moving our nation to energy independence. I want to say just a word or two about that. The United States sends approximately $1 billion every single day to foreign nations for oil. According to the Energy Information Administration we import about 9 million barrels of oil every day, 4 million of which come from countries the State Department has labeled “dangerous or unstable.” This leaves our nation vulnerable to volatility and price spikes in the cost of our energy, and leaves us beholden to the OPEC cartel and unstable countries for too much of our energy supplies.

At the same time we all recognize the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil the Department of Defense has been a strong voice in recognizing the need to address the challenges posed by climate change. The Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review Report found that climate change is an “accelerant of instability” that will place a burden on the military to respond to disasters and humanitarian crises. The Department of Defense is the largest single consumer of energy in the United States, and spends more than $4 billion a year on energy and transportation fuel costs. And that’s why the DoD has been very aggressive in setting a strong target of meeting 25 percent of its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2025.  This project will contribute to meeting that target.

So today I am proud that our Vermont National Guard is meeting the challenge of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, meeting the challenge of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and serving as a model of innovation for other military facilities around the nation. Today we break ground on a project that will put in place approximately 1.45 megawatts of clean solar energy, fueled by the Sun.  Importantly, this project is going to utilize a variety of solar photovoltaic technology, including roof-mounted systems, ground mounted systems, and panels on dual axis trackers that will follow the sun throughout the day to even more efficiently generate power. I am pleased to have worked to secure $8.47 million in federal funds to make this possible.

This is one of the largest solar energy projects in Vermont and I hope and expect that we will be seeing more projects like this throughout the state. In fact, the good news is that the price of solar panels has been coming down rapidly, declining 75 percent in the last decade. This means that the project here at the Vermont National Guard is larger than we thought it would be, because of the increasing cost competitiveness of solar energy. The installation of 1.45 megawatts of solar energy at the Vermont National Guard Base will save $224,000 in energy costs annually. This will not only make the Vermont National Guard one of the most sustainable Guard bases, it will serve as a model for other military facilities in terms of what is possible. There may be even more we can do together, and I look forward to working with the Vermont National Guard going forward to continue your efforts to be sustainable and efficient in meeting your energy needs. 

I appreciate the service of all of the men and women in the Vermont National Guard to our nation, and I thank you for demonstrating real leadership in meeting our state’s and our nation’s energy challenges, to help us create a more secure and sustainable energy future.