PUTNEY -- A federal energy specialist will be in Putney Wednesday to help the town decide if a former basket manufacturing site can be re-developed for renewable energy generation.
The town, along with the Windham Regional Commission and the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, won a grant from the National Renewable Energy Lab and Environmental Protection Agency, which helps municipalities consider if it makes sense to bring the renewable energy projects to Brownfield Sites.
Brownfield Sites are abandoned or unused, contaminated industrial lands that have been cleaned up, or can be cleaned and have the potential for re-development.
The energy specialist will be in Putney Wednesday for a public meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Putney Fire Station.
"This is a chance for the community to learn what might be possible for bringing some form of alternative energy to the village," said Susan McMahon, Windham Regional Commission Associate Director. "This is a good chance for us to explore those possibilities."
The grant was written specifically to consider the former basket manufacturing site across from the Basketville store on Route 5.
The 6.1 acre site has been the location of a woolen mill factory, a paper mill company and then the basket manufacturing company which used the land until 2002.
The site was cleaned up in 2006, though further tests and actions need to be taken to make the land ready for
The EPA’s Re-Powering America’s Land Initiative was started to encourage the development of renewable energy on contaminated land and mine sites as an alternative to developing renewable energy on previously undeveloped land.
Putney applied for the EPA grant in May 2011 and found out in November 2011 that it had been chosen.
The town originally applied for the grant to see if a combined heat and power biomass plant could be built on the site, though McMahon said supporters are now considering a variety of alternative energy production facilities, if the consultant thinks it is feasible.
According to the grant application the property’s owner, Basketville President Greg Wilson, and Putney Paper Manager Dave Harris, both support the grant.
Putney Paper uses 1.5 million gallons of fuel oil annually and could be a major consumer of the power, and excess heat produced at the site, the application reads.
The meeting Wednesday is going to give the energy consultant a chance to visit the site and take a closer look at the potential of bringing alternative energy to Putney, but McMahon said it is also a chance for village and town residents to weigh in on the project.
McMahon stressed that there are no plans yet, but it is important to gauge the public support for the plant which could bring truck traffic and increase noise and smoke in the area.
"When we heard about this grant we had some discussions to see if this was something we wanted to explore," she said. "We are not saying we are ready to come forward with a plan yet, but there does seem to be support for this. It’s pretty exciting."
McMahon said the study might also be useful for other towns and villages in southeastern Vermont that might want to consider developing alternative energy projects on brownfields.
Many of the lessons that might be learned in Putney could be transferred to other sites and McMahon said the meeting Wednesday could mark an important step forward in bringing small scale alternative energy to the region.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.