Lowell wind opponents accept $1.3 million from Green Mountain Power for farm

The state’s largest utility reached a $1.3 million settlement Monday with two Lowell landowners in a property line dispute over construction of a ridgeline wind farm.

Don and Shirley Nelson, two vocal opponents of Green Mountain Power’s 63-megawatt wind turbine project on Lowell Mountain, own a 580-acre farm abutting the project. GMP will purchase the Nelsons’ farm and allow the landowners to stay in their home for two years, according to the settlement.

The Nelsons in 2011 allowed protesters of the project to camp near the construction site along a disputed property line. The project was completed in 2012, but the landowners and the utility remained in a legal dispute over the location of the property line.

The landowners will keep 35 acres in Albany, but the Nelsons plan to move away from family farm that has been in the family for 72 years, according to a statement.

“They made the decision that they would not remain in their Lowell Mountain hill farm in the shadow of the turbines,” a statement from the family reads. “The Nelsons intend to move from their farm to a location well away from the turbines.”

GMP said in a statement the company supports the settlement.

“The agreement meets the needs of the Nelsons as well as those of our customers,” a spokesperson for the company said. “We believe that this settlement represents an opportunity for both to move forward and we are pleased to have reached agreement.”

Comments

  1. Annette Smith :

    The headline would be more appropriate if it read “Lowell Wind Neighbors…” The Nelsons have lived on their farm which borders 1.5 miles of GMP’s industrial wind project for decades. The nuisance came to them. They were right to oppose it, but that is irrelevant to the settlement.

    The Therriens did not oppose First Wind’s Sheffield wind project. The headline will not read “First Wind Opponents…” when they eventually get a buyout.

    In both cases, the neighbors’ health, property values and quality of life have been destroyed by the wind turbines. Whether or not these neighbors opposed them or supported them or were agnostic is not the point. The point is harm is occurring and the parties that are profiting must pay for those damages.

  2. Wayne Andrews :

    Now this seems like a more reasonable ending with the whole parcel going to GMP rather than the VELCO case where the landowner got a judgement for the value of the parcel ( although labelled differently) and still could keep it.

  3. Annette Smith :

    Neither of these cases are reasonable. Corporations behaving badly have no place in Vermont. Neither GMP nor VELCO should be destroying neighbor properties to achieve their goals which assure large profits at the expense of others. Their Boards of Directors should take note that the public perception of these important corporations is trending closer to Entergy’s unethical practices than socially responsible businesses.

  4. Vanessa Mills :

    Having hiked Lowell Mountain to witness the destruction/construction; having stood in the Nelsons’ yard, sensing their frustration & loss, speaking with them around the lump in my throat; having listened to much live and recorded testimony by Shirley Nelson; having followed the story of Chris Braithwaite and of the Occupiers; having stood in Montpelier with the Nelsons and other Vermonters who believe in doing renewables in a way that doesn’t threaten the very things it proposes to save & who believe in standing up for the value of one’s own land and one’s own home; I find this very bittersweet, to say the least.

    To put it mildly, I know it was no easy process for Don &Shirley Nelson to come through. They’ve endured so much in fighting for their health, their property rights and their home and their dreams for their family.

    For GMP to now concede…… this IS an admission of wrongdoing on their part. And appropriately so. It is the very least that should be happening for the Nelsons. I wish them the very best from here, and I wish them some peace after all that befell them as abutters of Powell’s Folly on Lowell.

  5. The fault is entirely with the DPS approval process, which borders on malfeasance in office, resulting in a major bane for nearby residents, to say the least.

    Such large, 3 MW, wind turbines should have at least 2 km (1.25 mile) of distance from the PROPERTY line of any abutter in flat landscape, a greater distance in hilly landscape, as in Vermont, because the sound is funneled/magnified by the valleys.

    Lowell sits on 2700 acres, but should have had at least (3.5 miles of ridge line + 2.5 mile), length x 2.5 m, width x 640 acres/sq m = 8,125 acres, on flat terrain, much more on hilly terrain.

    GMP buying the Nelson’s 580 acres is just a drop in the bucket of what is required.

    All is explained in these 2 articles.

    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/61309/lowell-mountain-wind-turbine-facility-vermont

    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/84293/wind-turbine-noise-and-air-pressure-pulses

    Vermont’s best approach to reduce CO2 is increased energy efficiency. A statewide code requiring net-zero-energy housing for ALL new buildings would be a good start.

    PS. The Lowell CF was 0.206 in 2013, versus the fabrication presented to the PSB of 0.3587
    http://vce.org/2011-6-20_ALB-CFT_First_Comments_GMP_Filings(7628)

    As a result, it will take not about 1.5 years, but about 2.5 years to offset the CO2 of building just the turbines (not counting the environmental destruction CO2), and, because of reduced production, about 60% less CO2 will be offset during the remaining 20 – 2.5 = 17.5 yr life, than claimed by GMP.

    GMP/PSB must be thrilled to have scammed everyone to get to the excessive federal and state subsidies to make it all possible before expiration deadlines, because ALL of this outcome was predicted, based on Maine wind turbine performance.

    On top of that, the facility was built in an area with a rural grid that could not handle the added variable energy. A $10.5 million synchronous facility is required to PARTIALLY remedy the situation; it was supposed to be on line in December 2013, but still is not. Yikes!

    • Rob Roy Macgregor :

      Mr Post,

      How many of these cookie cutter posts will you make before you acknowledge that no amount of energy efficiency efforts will ever create a single kilowatt? Where is the electricity supposed to come from?

      Conservation and efficiency by all means, but you have to generate it somehow….what’s your better plan to eliminate fossil fuels?

      • Roy,
        The lowest cost and most effective way to reduce CO2 from fossil fuel is energy efficiency. That means DESIGNING for least energy use.

        All is explained in this article.

        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46652/reducing-energy-use-houses

        • Rob Roy Macgregor :

          Evading the question much?

          • Rob,

            Electricity will need to be generated while energy efficiency efforts are underway, but the quantity of electricity will become less and less, until it has some minimal value.

            That minimal value will be generated with renewables.

            Regarding EE, the US uses about 2 times the energy per dollar of GDP than Denmark and Japan, i.e., the US has a long way to go with EE.

            Please read my referenced article.

  6. Wayne Andrews :

    Most of you nay sayers in these and other posts keep eluding to “other ways of doings things…” Well maybe J.Q. Public doesnt endorse Annette Smiths, William Posts Garden of Eden style of thinking. Some of us want our town’s to grow and not have the neighbors but into our business.

    • J Q Public isn’t expecting “Gardens of Eden”.

      They’re expecting common sense, honesty and fairness with industrial development.

      The fact that a court ruled against VELCO to the tune of $1 million and GMP elected to pay $1.3 million for the Nelson’s farm highlights the heavy handedness of Vermont’s utilities’ behavior and lack of common sense, honesty and fairness in their initial dealings.

      Most Vermonter’s are reasonable people until they begin to get stepped on by bullies and ignored by the state agencies charged with protecting them, realities that have recently occurred all to frequently in this state.

      • Peter,
        So-called planet savers are out to get as much subsidies as possible , as quickly as possible, for their expensive, ineffective RE projects.

        Heavily subsidized SPEED is a prime example producing mostly variable, intermittent energy at 3-4 times grid prices.

        Here are some numbers from the DPS website.

        Projects 2.2 MW or less, Standard Offer

        The Standard Offer part of the SPEED program has a capacity target of 127.5 MW installed by end 2017.

        The SPEED program, with help of subsidies from the Clean Energy Development Fund, produces expensive energy. Adding more money to the CEDF would worsen a bad situation.

        To facilitate chasing subsidies, the CEDF and SPEED program were created by RE promoters, some of whom decided to resign from the CEDF board, because of conflict of interest, as they owned RE businesses that built CEDF-subsidized and SPEED-subsidized projects.

        Here are the production results for the SPEED Program, 2.2 megawatt or less:

        2010……..5,980,779 kWh……..0.1387 $/kWh; July – December
        2011……20,172,973 kWh……..0.1644 $/kWh
        2012……29,666,592 kWh……..0.1716 $/kWh
        2013……44,822,813 kWh……..0.1919 $/kWh

        Note the RISING trend, whereas RE promoters were claiming RE rates would decline. NE annual average grid prices are about 5 c/kWh.

        Such high RE energy costs will increase Vermont household electric rates, which already are the 4th highest in the US, right after Connecticut, Alaska, and Hawaii.

        http://vermontspeed.com/speed-monthly-production/

        Solar SPEED is compensated at an outrageously high 27 c/kWh for ALL energy fed into the grid, and non-SPEED, mostly roof-mounted solar systems, is compensated at the electric rate + 6 c/kWh, for all energy produced, in the GMP North service area. In the GMP South service area different, less generous, rules apply.

        NOTE: The SPEED value of 27 c/kWh is at least 10 c/kWh too high. According to David Hallquist, CEO of VEC, it should be 17 c/kWh for systems 1,000 kW and up. That value is of great benefit for the tax shelters of multi-millionaires, but excessively increases the electric rates of already-struggling households and businesses.
        In-state and out-of-state multi-millionaires with tax shelters, who put up “PSB-approved”, heavily-subsidized, $10 million (less tax credits, grants, depreciation), 2.2 MW solar systems in Vermont meadows, get compensated at an outrageous 2,200 kW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.14 = 2,698,080 kWh x 0.27 c/kWh = $728,482 per year for 25 years!!! A gravy train, if ever there was one. That energy could be bought from the grid at 5 c/kWh, or $134,904 per year. The difference, $593,578, gets charged mostly to household electric bills. Multiply that by, say, 20 systems and we are talking real money.

        • John Greenberg :

          Willem,
          “Solar SPEED is compensated at an outrageously high 27 c/kWh for ALL energy fed into the grid…” You know this is false because I’ve pointed out to you before. Yet you repeat it here again.

          Why?

          • John,

            The rate was reduced from 27 to 25.7 c/kWh, still outrageously high, compared to Hallquist, CEO of VEC, estimated cost of 17 c/kWh for 1000 kW systems and up.

            Lowering the rate is one thing, but it will take a long time before having a budgetary impact.

            In January 2014, 16 PV solar SPEED projects, capacity 18,711 kW, produced 1,080,322 kW; owners were paid $302,884.89, or
            0.2804/kWh, per DPS website, so my $0.27/kWh is actually an understatement!!

            For ALL SPEED projects less than 2.2 MW, the average compensation was $0.1775/kWh and 0.1918/kWh, in January and February 2014, respectively.

            That average numbers will be very slowly decreasing, as PV projects are added at the lower rate.

          • John Greenberg :

            Willem,

            You didn’t answer my question.

            Why do you keep repeating as factual a figure which you’ve just acknowledged is wrong? Since this isn’t the first time you’ve acknowledged it either, the answer cannot be that you didn’t know it was wrong when you said it here.

            So once again, why?

          • John,

            Just to clarify, I used the 27 c/kWh for calculation purposes. It turned out my estimate was too low, as I noted in my response to your comment.

    • Tom Sullivan :

      Hey Wayne, the “other ways of doing things” is code for more nuclear, more hydroelectric, and the endorsement of clean coal technology.

    • Kathy Nelson :

      Wayne, if you’re so set on living in an urban dump crowed with big box stores then by all means move to New Jersy.

  7. Wayne Andrews :

    And the farmers that sold out to and/or eminant domain their land to the State of Vermont for the Interstate were bullied too? I am sure they did not receive compensation for the hay they lost forever and ever.Seems like thats acceptable as long as your sorry bunch uses the highway or power your laptops with energy from the high transmissions lines circa 1950′s.

    • So Wayne, you say”…….as your sorry bunch…”.

      Now maybe you can tell us about your exceptional pedigree that prompts you to think you’re justified in making such a statement.

  8. Tom Sullivan :

    Wayne, I couldn’t agree with you more.

  9. Towns need not “grow” into rural slums, especially when economic changes are afoot. Burlington is being called “a high tech hub,” while Newport is adding jobs faster than other, larger cities nearby.

    No one expected the Route 128 high-tech mecca in Massachusetts to grow as fast as it did.

    No one expected about 15 acres of formerly ‘worthless’ farmland in Massachusetts to go for two million dollars.

    http://stoneridgeproperties.com/listing/71368581/18-sullivan-court-west-newbury-ma/

    One point I am making is that I am no tree-hugger. I used to market “Luxury Retirement Living” in Northern New England. On my travels, I have seen upscale condominiums built into cliffs: a beautiful marriage of nature and human-scale usefulness. To me the wasted potential of Lowell Mountain is staggering.

    Large industrial installations in the wrong setting do not make a positive contribution to anything. Large industrial installations in residential settings are simply blight. Towns rendered rural slums have not grown: They have shrunk, in terms of wasted potential.

  10. Wayne Andrews :

    Ellin: You make the location sound optional. The towers must be built where the wind is present for an acceptable period of time. A portion of your comment is akin to building a hydro dam in a dry spot.

    • Wayne,

      GMP/PBS basically misrepresented, aka lied, about Lowell capacity factors to get the project built as quickly as possible and to get the subsidies before deadlines.

      They lied not a little, but a lot.

      Actual 2013 CF 0.206

      GMP misrepresentation to get a CPG, accepted by the PSB as truth, CF 0.3587 (“with the bigger rotor”), an overstatement of 0.3587/0.206 = 74%!!!!!! Yikes.

      Even RE aficionado Klein has stated, there likely will not be another wind turbine facility on Vermont ridge lines for at least 10 years.

      Here are the other grossly underperforming wind turbine facilities in Vermont.

      Sheffield….. 40 MW…..$120 million…………83,395 MWh…….CF 0.238
      Lowell*……..63 MW…..$170 million………..113,687 MWh…….CF 0.206
      Georgia……..10 MW…….$28 million……..….21,024 MWh…….CF 0.240 Est.

      Total……….113 MW….$318 million…………218,106 MWh

      *Includes grid and substation upgrades and $10.5 million synchronous-converter system mandated by ISO-NE.

      • John Greenberg :

        Willem,

        You’ve repeated this allegation many times: “GMP misrepresentation to get a CPG, accepted by the PSB as truth ….”

        PSB decisions are all issued in written form with full explanations about every step of the process. So please be so kind as to show us exactly how and where you believe the Board “accepted” this “as truth” or withdraw your allegation.
        ***

        And by the way, there is no “DPS approval process.” Approvals are issued (or denied) by the PSB, not DPS. It wouldn’t be worth pointing out here, except that you accompany your ignorance of the process with an accusation that it “borders on malfeasance in office ….,” which is pretty powerful language for a process you don’t understand.

        • John,

          GMP has to submit its spreadsheets to the DPS, because it administers the SPEED program.

          GMP’s CFs used in those spreadsheets were reviewed and either approved or not objected to by the DPS.

          GMP testified about its CFs to the PSB, and the PSB did not object, i.e., accepted them.

          • John Greenberg :

            Willem,

            1) “GMP has to submit its spreadsheets to the DPS, because it administers the SPEED program.” What judgments about capacity factor, if any, does the SPEED program require (or even allow) DPS to make? “GMP’s CFs used in those spreadsheets were reviewed and either approved or not objected to by the DPS.” How exactly?

            Does VT law give DPS the right to reject a SPEED RFP on the basis of its capacity factor? If so, please explain. If not, how does GMP’s providing spreadsheets equate to a “DPS approval process?”

            2) “GMP testified about its CFs to the PSB, and the PSB did not object, i.e., accepted them.”

            The Board receives VOLUMINOUS testimony in any docket, including this one. The Board must weigh and consider all of it in reaching its decision. At the time of the Board’s final order in the Lowell case, GMP presented 4 possible turbine technologies, not just one. The Board’s order makes it clear that it was NOT based on the capacity factor of any one of them, since they were, in fact, all different. The Board’s decision was made on the basis of the project’s compliance with the criteria set forth in the law. Capacity factor is not one of them.

            Long story short, NONE of the facts I’m familiar with lend ANY support to your conclusion. If you have facts that show otherwise, please present them. Alternatively, admit that your conclusion is simply false.

        • Vermont’s Wind Energy Scam:

          Excerpt from:
          http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/332911/high-renewable-energy-costs-damage-vermonts-economy

          Vermonters are the victims of a grand scheme to promote heavily subsidized, expensive wind energy on ridgelines, primarily to schlep as much federal subsidies to Vermont as possible. Reports were written about the abundance of wind on ridgelines, and it being a great renewable energy source for Vermont, and leading to energy independence, and creating jobs. No more reliance on those dirty fossil fuels and that dangerous Vermont Yankee.

          The CEA report was written for Vermont utilities to guide them towards renewables. CEA based its analyses on CFs = 0.33, quoting “Vermont sources”. Page 23.
          http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/envy/7440%20CEA%20report.pdf

          After the CEA report was issued, Blittersdorf, a Vermont wind guru, owner of 10 MW Georgia Mountain, helped James Moore write the VPIRG “Repowering Vermont” report, which used wind turbine capacity factors of 0.33, quoting the CEA report, which quoted “Vermont sources”. Yikes!

          And Vermont legislators were fed this garbage, believed it, and enacted laws accordingly, even though evidence of poor CFs of Northeast wind turbine plants already existed.

          GMP has 0.338 on its website, used 0.3587 (“with the larger rotor”) as testimony to the PSB to get a CPG.

          DPS uses 0.33 on its website.

          Actual Lowell CF 0.206 in 2013.

          Actual Maine ridge line CF 0.25; available to me, AND in US government reports AT THAT TIME.

          Due diligence by GMP/PSB/DPS, etc., was adequate?

          No deception/no scam?

          • John Greenberg :

            Willem,

            Now that you’ve vented about the vast Vermont renewables conspiracy, how about answering the questions I asked you?

  11. Wayne Andrews :

    Peter: My personal life has nothing to do with making comments. Most of my thinking is good ole Vermont Yankee common sense which is obviously not recognized by you and your ilk and that is the problem here.

    • Now Wayne:

      Here you go again saying: ” ….recognized by you and your ilk …”

      What does this mean by this? Is it some sort of slur?

  12. There is a very sinister undercurrent in the debate over industrial-scale wind in the Northeast Kingdom. It surfaces from time to time in words to the effect of: “People can do what they want with their own land.” The folks making these comments are almost exclusively men.

    Is it also acceptable to say: “I can do what I want with my own wife.”

    How about: “I can do what I want with my own child.”

    Think about that. A forest or mountain ecosystem is a living thing, separate from one’s selfish ‘ownership’ or intentions.

    The comparison between pristine land and women’s bodies is a basic tenet of feminism: one that deserves a second look.

    As to the rest of feminism: I suppose its crowning glory, or one of them, must be having a “Folly” named after oneself.

    • Matt Fisken :

      I appreciate Ellin for observing the patriarchal chauvinism which is certainly at the root of our maniacal buildout of wind and wireless towers on most mountain and hill tops in Vermont.

      It’s so sad that we’ve lost our ability to see beauty in its natural form, without erecting phalli everywhere we go.

      • Richard Ratico :

        Ellen and Matt,

        You do feminism a great disservice with your perverse, nonsensical comments. A feminist CAN THINK as well as emote. “Not in my back yard” is no longer an option.

        • Jason Wells :

          Wow turning this into woman’s rights issue. What’s next the race card?

          • Matt Fisken :

            Just because men are more likely to exert their dominance using their financial and political might doesn’t mean women are the only ones who are negatively affected. Everyone (and thing) pays dearly.

  13. Kim Fried :

    I want to get the subject back to Don and Shirley Nelson. These are two of the most courageous, decent citizens of Vermont. They stood up to an international corporation, GMP, and GMP’s friends in Montpelier, the DPS, PSB and the Governor and many other Montpelier interests. The Nelson’s are true Vermont heros and will never be fairly compensated for the pain and stress they’ve endured over the past years, let alone having to leave thier home behind. GMP and the others that have abused this family so badly should apoligize and if their was fairness in this present system of Vermont government we are forced to live under right now, these abusers should be punished with a severe reprimand. Money is nothing to these abusers and and this industry is continuing this horrific behavior in other parts of our state. I’m proud of the Nelsons and wish them only the very, very best in the future.

    • Annette Smith :

      Thank you, Kim, for recognizing what the Nelsons have been put through by GMP. There is some evidence that GMP’s officials do recognize what they have done to the Nelsons. At the Jan. 8 PSB public hearing on the sound standard investigation, they were approached by the newly-hired Kristen Carlson (formerly of WCAX TV) when I was standing with the Nelsons, and they were also approached by Robert Dostis of GMP. Both of them seemed to be expressing concern for the Nelsons. Shirley Nelson’s noise diaries, which I continue to receive and which are very painful to read, seem to have made an impression on them as it became clear to at least some people associated with GMP that they are causing real harm to the Nelsons. There are many other people living around the Lowell wind project experiencing the same health problems. The Nelsons had the largest property interest and were able to articulate what was happening to them, and also provide sound monitoring evidence that supports the high levels of noise they are subject to.

      Neighbors of all three wind projects are taking a beating right now with the kinds of winds we are having. This settlement is just the beginning of what wind developers, who are making substantial profits, are going to have to do to compensate the people for the harm they are causing.

      • Tom Sullivan :

        Hi Annette,
        Maybe your correct in saying that more neighbors of Lowell need to be compensated and reach a similar settlement. But how do you delineate the legitimate claims from the illegitimate? Do you set a radius in proximity to a wind farm and compensate everyone that falls within that area? Or do you take it case by case basis? In your opinion, what’s the best method to reduce fraud along with a potential feeding frenzy of personal injury lawyers?

  14. Jason Wells :

    I wonder if the Nelson’s agreed to a gag order as part of the deal?

  15. A green-energy grab has been discussed in relation to the Bundy ranch standoff in Nevada. The Nelsons may recognize themselves in these stalwart folks from Nevada, who have been under armed assault:

    http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/04/16/why-is-us-senator-harry-reid-so-concerned-with-local-nevada-rancher/

    “It has been pointed out by journalists intent on covering for [Democratic U.S. Senator] Reid that a $5 billion Chinese solar project backed by Reid was recently shelved. But what they forgot to mention is Reid’s involvement in multiple solar and wind projects across the Nevada desert. Only days ago, Senator Reid was featured in a photo at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new solar project. Where is that project located? Just 35 miles from the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada.

    “Senator Reid’s fingers are in virtually every solar and wind project in the Nevada desert. Green energy is his obsession. Green energy is his baby. His vision is turning the Nevada desert into the ‘Green Energy Capital of America.’

    “Who benefits from that vision? Democratic donors who run green energy companies. Who stands in the way of that vision — Nevada’s ranchers, farmers and property owners…”

    • Jason Wells :

      Agenda 21 look it up!

    • Moshe Braner :

      “only 35 miles away” – so? And what has that got to do with Bundy owing the BLM a million dollars in grazing fees, while he gets rich by overutilizing and degrading public land?

    • Richard Ratico :

      Ellin,

      You ask, “Who benefits from that vision?”.
      Short answer, anyone who has an interest in the natural world we will leave to our children and grandchildren.

      You ask, “Who stands in the way of that vision?” Short answer, republican donors who run poisonous energy companies. Read up on the Koch Brothers and learn just whose fingers are where.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/who-are-the-koch-brothers_b_5165995.html

      • Thanks, I know all about the Koch brothers.

        A ‘choice’ between the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson on the one hand, and George Soros on the other hand, is not much of a choice at all.

        • Richard Ratico :

          Ellin,

          It would appear Mr. Soros primarily invests in fossil fuel industries as do the Koch brothers.
          http://beta.fool.com/insidermonkey/2013/05/31/george-soros-5-favorite-energy-investments/35770/
          The difference between them might be primarily political as the Kochs are extremely right wing vs. Soros as quite liberal.

          I don’t understand the point of your comment as it seems to have nothing to do with renewable energy or “the green energy grab” as you call it.

          Traditional fossil fuel and nuclear interests DWARF the size of the renewable energy industry. The “black energy grab” seems to me far the greater danger to our health and wealth than renewables if one must choose. And choose we must. So, please choose well.

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