Vermont Press Releases

Vermont Sierra Club calls for green Vermont jobs

July 14th, 2011

Governor Peter Shumlin/Vermont Department of Public Service,

We, the undersigned leaders of the Vermont Sierra Club, are writing to you today on behalf of our 3000 Vermont members.  We are fortunate to have many fellow residents that share our high regard for the environment and we are grateful that “green” construction projects are on the rise in our state.  Yet when these projects are undertaken without the use of Vermont labor (as is the case with the Sheffield wind farm), or when the generated jobs do not pay fair wages and benefits, our economy and our resident working families suffer.  It is not right for the Public Service Board to approve projects that promise Vermont jobs, but do not deliver on that promise.

Looking forward, we strongly assert that in-state green construction projects, including but not limited to wind farms, hydro power, solar power, and biomass projects must be produced with Vermont labor and provide all workers with livable wages, health care and all other necessary benefits. These criteria should be part of what the Public Service Board utilizes before approving any such project.  Let it be known that we unequivocally support the Vermont Building and Construction Trades Council and organized labor in general on this important issue.

Together, let us build a green energy portfolio that not only secures the future of Vermont’s environment, but also provides good jobs and good living standards for working Vermont families in the process.  We invite you to agree.



Zak Griefen, Chairman
David Ellenbogan, Vice Chairman
Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club
149 State Street, Montpelier VT 05602
(802) 229-6399

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  • Lowell Mountain Wind Turbine Facility in Vermont; by Willem Post, 14 June, 2011

    The GMP-instigated 63 MW Lowell wind turbine facility with (21) 3 MW Danish wind turbines stretched along 4 miles of ridge lines has nothing to do with community-scale wind, everything with utility-scale wind. GMP is using blatant PR to soft-soap/deceive Vermonters. It is a capital intensive (63 MW x $2,500,000/MW = $157.5 million, excluding grid modifications), highly visual (410-ft tall wind turbines), noisy wind turbine facility that is proposed to be built on environmentally-sensitive ridge lines. It received a Certificate of “Public Good” from the Vermont Public Service Board, a mostly political entity.

    The Lowell wind turbine facility would produce just a little of expensive, unreliable, intermittent, variable wind energy (63 MW x 1 GW/1,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.30 = 165.6 GWh/yr, or about 2.76% of Vermont’s 6,000 GWh/yr consumption) that has near-zero dispatch value to grid operators, such as ISO-NE; at least 10 percent of the year, the wind speeds are too low to produce any wind energy and most of the wind energy is produced in irregular, varying, sporadic spurts at night during the winter.

    The project has nothing to do with reducing CO2 emissions or generating wind energy. Most of the CO2 emissions that wind energy was meant to reduce is offset by the increased CO2 emissions due to the inefficient operation of the gas-fired balancing facility, as shown by this study.

    For the same capital cost a new 60% efficient combined cycle gas turbine facility in base-loaded mode at rated output would produce ($157.6 million/$1,250,000/MW) x 1 GW/1000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.90 = 993.4 GWh/yr, or about 16.5% of Vermont’s 6,000 GWh/yr consumption, more than 5 times as much electrical energy per invested dollar.

    No grid modifications would be required, AND no inefficient operation of gas-fired wind energy balancing facilities would be required, AND it has minimal visual impact, AND it takes up only a few acres, AND the electrical energy is low cost, steady, reliable and dispatchable.

    The Lowell wind turbine facility job creation is largely a mirage. The facility will temporarily employ a number of people during the construction phase for about a year. During the next 20 years, just a few people will be permanently employed to perform operations and maintenance. An enormous waste of capital to create just a few permanent jobs, as shown by this Vermont Department of Public Service study.

    The project would not be built if there were no subsidies equivalent to at least 50% of the capital cost. Without subsidies, the wind energy produced would be at least $0.15/kWh delivered to the grid, significantly higher than New England average grid prices of about $0.055/kWh.

    The project has everything to do with grabbing as much federal subsidies as possible and “coursing” them through Vermont’s economy for the short-term benefit of the well-connected few (including high-income, non-Vermonters looking for tax shelters and foreign companies supplying wind turbines), and at the long-term economic expense (higher electric rates) of the many.

    Over the past 10 years, the subsidies for wind turbine facility owners have become so excessive that facilities are built in marginal wind areas, as on most Vermont ridge lines, or before facilities are built to transmit the wind energy to population centers, as in the Texas Panhandle, just to cash in on the lucrative subsidies. Here is a partial list of subsidies:

    – Federal grant for 30% of the total project cost which also applies to Spanish, Danish, German and Chinese wind turbines thus creating jobs in those nations instead of the US. These nations would not dream to have such a measure benefitting US wind turbine companies.

    – Federal accelerated depreciation allowing the entire project to be written off in five years which is particularly beneficial to wealthy, high-income people looking for additional tax shelters.

    – Federal production credit of $0.022/kWh of wind energy produced.

    – Owners of wind turbine facilities receive Renewable Energy Certificates which they can sell on the open market. The RECs are subsequently bought by polluting companies that find it less expensive to buy the RECs than clean up their pollution.

    The federal government and state legislatures are pressured to provide increasingly greater state subsidies to politically well-connected renewables vendors, developers, financial entities (such as Goldman Sachs on Wall Street) and their high-income clients who use them for tax shelters.

    State legislatures and state government agencies are pressured to pave the regulatory ways to essentially circumvent state environmental and quality of life laws. Pro-forma hearings, usually required by law, are held to create a semblance of democratic process but effectively are rubber-stamp approvals of pre-ordained decisions.

  • David Van Deusen

    **Update: Since the sending of this letter (above), VT Iron Workers Local 7 and First Wind (the company responsible for the Sheffield wind farm project) have come to an agreement whereby union iron workers will now be working on the job site. As Conservation Organizer for the Vermont Sierra Club, I applaud this development and First Wind for doing the right thing by Vermonters and organized labor. We would expect that this gesture of goodwill will serve as an example for future in-state renewable energy projects.
    -David Van Deusen