- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A long-term plan to eliminate the state capital city’s dependence on fossil fuels is getting a boost from two new projects: one to install more solar panels at an insurance company and another to meet more heating needs with a new biomass heating facility.

On Tuesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin and officials with National Life Group insurance and financial services company marked the beginning of construction of the 500-kilowatt solar array that coupled with an existing array will provide 15 percent of the company’s power and 3 percent of the city’s power.

On Wednesday, the $23 million biomass heating plant, a joint city-state project near downtown Montpelier that is run by the state, will start providing hot water for the upcoming heating season, said City Manager Bill Fraser.

Both projects are part of the city’s goal of meeting 100 percent of the community’s energy needs, including heating and transportation, from renewable sources by 2030.

Vermont officials want 90 percent of the state’s energy needs, including all forms of transportation, to come from renewable sources by 2050.

Burlington’s electric utility and the Washington Electric Cooperative are among the first electric utilities in the country to get 100 percent of their power from renewable sources.

The two projects in Montpelier are another part of the process to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The array at National Life is due to come online by the end of the year and will include almost 2,100 solar panels located on 95 ground-mounted racks.

“The impact of this solar project is going to be around long after we are gone, 10, 20, 30 years from now,” said National Life CEO Mehran Assadi.

Fraser said that the city has already placed solar panels on some buildings and that a larger project, though not as large as the one at National Life, is being planned.

“We’re trying to do a lot of municipal initiatives and also create an environment and try to get the citizens on board,” Fraser said. “Obviously people have to make their own choices about their vehicles and their homes.”

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