Vermont National Guard solar project makes no sense

By Scott Baldwin

The headline in the Free Press read, “Vermont Guard Un­veils Solar Installa­tion” (Oct. 2), a project pushed by Sen. Sanders us­ing the argument that some­how home-grown solar power helps protect sol­diers. What am I missing? I would love to give our sena­tor a pass, but this is in big part the problem with him and most of the porkulas senators and congressmen in Washington. The country is broke and projects like this are only speeding up the demise of America as we go deeper in debt.

Please don’t get me wrong; I am a believer in renewable energy when and where it makes sense. I am not a believer that a senator robbing funds from a military budget to push his agenda or his desire for a back-door decrease in the capability of our military makes any sense at all (Funds for this project came out of the military budget).

Residents of Burlington facing many millions of improperly spent tax dollars ($17 million) on an ill conceived Burlington Telecom have had quite enough of politicians spending taxpayer dollars with no regard to laws or common sense. I would offer that the Sanders “pushed” solar installation at the Vermont Air Guard is Burlington Telecom on steroids or, for non-Burlingtonians, Vermont’s “little” bridge to nowhere.

I presented the raw numbers of the project to my 16-year-old son, without any editorial comment, and without missing a beat or having to put pen to paper his comment was, “that just doesn’t make sense.”

Let’s do the math. $8.5 million for a project that “saves” the Guard and thus the taxpayer “about $250,000 a year in energy costs.” Pretty simple math, this solar project, in a state that has sun less than 50 percent of the time, has a 34 year payback. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this doesn’t take into account that the electrical components and solar panels, like all mechanical things, require maintenance and upkeep. Factor in the life expectancy of these components is optimistically 20 years and this pork is not looking so good.

Now the real shocker! In order to pay for this project given that the government is big time in debt ($14 trillion) our government is going to have to sell bonds at let’s say 4 percent interest costing the taxpayer $340,000 a year just in interest cost. Now, instead of saving the taxpayer $250,000/year this project will cost the taxpayer a minimum of $90,000 (more like three times that when depreciation and maintenance is taken into account) each and every year. (I am a financial planner and I would get fired or more likely put in jail if I ever put a client in an investment like this, but that is where Bernie has put us.)

In hindsight, the taxpayer could only wish that the governor or the Pentagon could feel comfortable telling a sitting senator that his “agenda” did not make sense at this time or for our nation. It is a huge stretch to say this project has made any soldier one iota safer or our military any stronger, more the opposite. If Sen. Sanders really wanted to make our military stronger and safer he could help America gain energy independence by encouraging his fellow senators to lift regulations that restrict development and delivery of the vast energy resources we have in the Northern Hemisphere.

I am 100 percent for sensible renewable energy. This project made no sense. The only thing missing from this solar-pork-project, is a great big sign naming it after Sen. Sanders.

Scott Baldwin lives in Burlington.