WASHINGTON, June 25 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced that the “minibus” appropriations bill that passed the Senate Monday by a 86-5 vote includes a Sanders-authored amendment to provide $4 million in federal funding to continue operations of the Vermont Regional Test Center (RTC) dedicated to researching solar technologies.
The Vermont RTC, located on land owned by GlobalFoundaries in Williston, is one of five U.S. Department of Energy facilities in the United States that give solar technology manufacturers the opportunity to test and validate the performance and reliability of their products in real-world conditions.
The Trump administration has proposed eliminating funding for the RTCs for the past two years. Sanders’ amendment, however, provides more than $4 million to ensure the ongoing operation of the RTCs. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) cosponsored Sanders’ amendment.
The idea for the Vermont solar research facility came after Sanders visited the New Mexico RTC in 2008. At the time, Sandia National Labs operated four solar RTCs on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. None were located in a northern, wet and cold climate.
“In addition to Vermont’s harsh winters, the state’s ambitious goal of sourcing 90 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2050 helped convince DOE and Sandia to establish a fifth RTC in Vermont,” said Sanders who serves on the Senate energy committee. “It also helped that Vermont is home to some of the most forward-thinking utilities in the country, many renewable energy companies and a statewide ‘smart grid.’”
In a short time, the Vermont facility has become the most successful RTC in the U.S., with at least 15 solar installations, 24 module types and 11 industry partners – including three Vermont companies: Renewable NRG, based in Hinesburg; All Earth Renewables, based in Williston; and Norwich Technologies, based in White River Junction.
“The RTC is just one piece of a huge effort to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy,” Sanders said. “While President Trump stubbornly clings to the absurd notion that global warming is a hoax created by China, communities all over this country are moving towards energy efficiency and renewable energy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.”
“The Vermont RTC is helping that effort not only by testing and validating which technologies work best in northern cold climates, but by giving consumers the information they need to make informed decisions,” Sanders said. “Furthermore, this research facility is helping drive solar employment and innovation in Vermont.”
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