U.S. Solar Testing Center Launched in Vermont

Press Release

Date: Nov. 4, 2013
Location: Williston, VT
Issues: Energy

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today was joined by Gov. Peter Shumlin and representatives of IBM, Sandia National Laboratories and the U.S. Department of Energy to launch the Vermont Photovoltaic Regional Test Center. The center will research ways to cut the cost of solar power and integrate solar energy into Vermont's statewide smart grid.

The Regional Test Center is a $3 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative, which aims to reduce the cost of solar energy by 75 percent by 2020 and make solar power account for at least 15 percent of America's electricity generation by 2030.

The Regional Test Center is one of five such facilities in the United States and will provide critical performance data on solar photovoltaic systems, including determining the effectiveness of operating in a climate with harsh winters, significant precipitation and dramatic weather changes.

"We have a bold vision here in Vermont and across the country for an energy transformation phasing fossil fuels out as quickly as possible in favor of clean, renewable energy. Solar energy is a central part of that vision," said Sanders, who serves on the Senate energy and environment committees. "People understand that solar has huge potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create good jobs." (Click here for the senator's prepared remarks.)

"With Vermont No. 1 per capita in private-sector green jobs and ninth in the nation in solar energy installations, the Department of Energy picked our state to host a regional solar test center," Gov. Peter Shumlin said. "I am so proud that, through the efforts of Sen. Sanders and with partners like Sandia National Laboratories and IBM Essex, Vermont will be playing a leading role in critical research and development to advance clean solar power."

The seven-acre testing site is on IBM-owned land in Williston, Vt., and will accommodate up to 300 kilowatts of solar power. Construction of the facility will continue throughout the fall.

Solar manufacturers, selected by a competitive process, will install photovoltaic systems at the Regional Test Center where they will be rigorously monitored by Sandia for performance and reliability. The testing site also will support collaborative research on integration of solar technologies into Vermont's statewide smart electric grid, built with $69 million in federal funds and matching contributions from the state's utilities.

"Thanks to the vision of Sen. Sanders, the leadership of the Department of Energy and technical commitment from IBM, this Regional Test Center will help realize a national vision for research, demonstration and testing of cutting edge solar technology," said Steve Rottler, Sandia National Laboratories Vice President.

"This program brings together the unique skills and resources at IBM Vermont with Sandia to address how to improve the cost and efficiency of solar energy," said Janette Bombardier, senior location executive for IBM in Vermont. "The development and expanded use of alternative energy sources is a key goal for Vermont and the nation, and IBM's smart electrical grid, technical expertise, data management experience, and regional partners make IBM Vermont the right location to achieve the goals of the SunShot initiative."

The Regional Test Center is a collaborative effort, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, led by Sandia National Laboratories, and hosted by IBM with support provided by Green Mountain Power, the University of Vermont, and the State of Vermont.

"The goal is to see Vermont at the cutting-edge in research and development of solar energy," Sanders said.