A dozen industrial wind farms under way in Vermont despite intense local opposition

Vicky Farrand-Lewis and Daniel Lewis

Vicky Farrand-Lewis and Daniel Lewis stand in front of the field where a proposed wind turbine will be in Derby Line. VTD photo/Alan Panebaker

Peering through the trees in Steve Therrien’s driveway, the white flash of a wind turbine blade whisks through the air. From this vantage the nearby towers are barely visible through the forest.

Although sound studies conducted by the developer First Wind show the noise level from the Sheffield Wind project is below acceptable levels set by state regulators, Therrien says it still wakes him up some nights.

Therrien lives with his wife and two children in their modest home less than a mile from the largest operating wind farm in the state. Sheffield hosts 16 turbines, each 420 feet tall.

He is part of an growing vocal contingent of citizens who are speaking out against wind projects in Vermont.

“A little humming, I could deal with that,” Therrien said. “When it’s waking you up in the middle of the night, you know something’s wrong.”

Citizens groups that oppose wind power projects, such as Energize Vermont and Vermonters for a Clean Environment, say their focus is on citizen involvement, but their critics say there is a well-funded and dedicated effort to stop all wind energy projects in the state.

Steve Therrien

Steve Therrien points toward the Sheffield Wind project, which is less than a mile from his home. VTD photo/Alan Panebaker

Therrien has been something of a squeaky wheel for the Sheffield project. He says he wasn’t opposed to the project until he filled out a survey by the group Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Shortly afterward, he heard from its executive director, Annette Smith, and he has complained publicly about the project since.

Therrien said he didn’t oppose the project during the yearlong construction period. Once the project began operating in October, he said he began to have concerns.

“The noise coming off these towers sounds just like equipment running up there and I’m going to hear this for another 20 years,” he said. “Well I’m not going to because I’m going to move.”

A growing number of residents like Therrien who live near planned and operating wind projects are raising concerns about the influx of turbines on the state’s ridge lines.

At least 14 industrial wind projects with towers of similar size (about 400 feet tall) and with electric generation outputs of varying amounts from 100 kilowatts up to a 100-megawatt project in Newark are either planned, under construction or already operating in Vermont.

Here is a list of industrial wind projects in the state, with the name of the project, its location, how many turbines it has or has planned, the power capacity and the developer:

Operating

• Sheffield Wind, Sheffield, 16 turbines, 40 megawatts, First Wind.
• Searsburg wind farm, Searsburg, 11 turbines, 6 megawatts, Green Mountain Power.

Under construction

• Kingdom Community Wind, Lowell, 21 turbines, 63 megawatts, Green Mountain Power.
• Georgia Mountain Community Wind, Milton/Georgia, four turbines, 12 megawatts, Jim Harrison/David Blittersdorf.

Proposed or in application process

• Grandpa’s Knob, West Rutland/Castleton/Hubbardton/Pittsford, 20 turbines, 50 megawatts, Reunion Power/Nordex.
• Vermont Community Wind Farm, Ira/Poultney/West Rutland, 32-42 turbines, 80 megawatts, Enel.
• Manchester/Sunderland, 8 turbines, 24 megawatts, Endless Energy.
• Deerfield Wind, Readsboro, 15 2-megawatt turbines, 34 megawatts, Iberdrola.
• Derby Line, two 2.3-megawatt turbines, 4.6 megawatts, Encore Redevelopment. UPDATE: The developer has pulled the plug on the project in part because of vocal opposition. See the Associated Press story from May 28.
• Newark/Brighton/Ferdinand, 30 3-megawatt turbines, 60-100 megawatts, Eolian Wind Energy & Nordex.
• Eden, BNE Energy, measuring tower constructed.
• Waitsfield, 20 2- to 3-megawatt turbines, 30-60 megawatt capacity, Citizens Energy.
• Londonderry, 20 2-megawatt turbines, 40-megawatt capacity, Volkswind.
• Bolton/Ricker Mountain, Bolton, measuring tower constructed, 6-7 turbines, Green Mountain Clean Energy.

Nearly all of the projects, small and large, have met resistance from individual community members or statewide citizens groups. Opponents have sought out media attention, and public meetings in the Northeast Kingdom and southern Vermont have seen vehement resistance from some locals.

That outspoken opposition, however, contradicts polls showing widespread support for in-state renewable energy. Green Mountain Power customer surveys conducted since 2008 consistently show that 68 percent to 72 percent of residents support wind power. A recent poll by WCAX News showed that of 607 Vermonters surveyed, 70 percent supported wind turbines on the state’s ridgelines.

Efforts to stop wind projects also run counter to the state’s policy of developing more in-state renewable projects.

In 2005, the Vermont Legislature created the Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program or SPEED. The program promotes the development of in-state renewable energy projects in order to meet a goal of producing 20 percent of Vermont’s electricity with renewables by 2017.

Over the last 10 years lawmakers have developed a clear policy in favor of renewable energy projects inside the state’s borders.

Former Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, was an outspoken critic of industrial wind. Three projects were approved by the Vermont Public Service Board during his tenure — Sheffield, the Deerfield expansion and Georgia mountain — and a number of others were proposed.

Since Gov. Peter Shumlin was elected in 2010, 11 projects have moved forward. The governor, a Democrat, has been an avid backer of the renewable industry in Vermont, and he pushed for wind development when he was in the Senate.

At a recent press conference Shumlin said, “I’m proud of the fact that as governor we’re finally building wind in Vermont.”

In order to meet the 20 percent objective, the state has guaranteed 20-year, above-market contracts for small (less than 2.2-megawatt projects). In 2009, the Obama administration and Congress expanded clean-energy incentives for renewable energy projects, including wind farms. The federal government offers production tax credits of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of energy produced in the first 10 years. The tax credits particularly benefit larger businesses with more income to offset. The incentives are designed to attract investors to the projects, which require millions in upfront capital and years of work before developers get a return on their investments.

In recent years, developers have taken advantage of state and federal policies and have begun to build out a number of wind projects, seemingly all at once.

Lowell: The ongoing battle in the Northeast Kingdom

Perhaps no individual project has seen as much media coverage as the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell.

On May 31, 2011, the Vermont Public Service Board approved a certificate of public good for the Green Mountain Power project. Construction began later that year despite an outcry from activists and neighboring landowners.

Lowell, in particular, sheds light on why communities are divided.

Kingdom Community Wind supporters at a rally held in Lowell. VTD/Josh Larkin

Kingdom Community Wind supporters at a rally held in Lowell. VTD file photo/Josh Larkin

In a Town Meeting Day vote, Lowell residents voted 3-to-1 to endorse the Green Mountain Power project. The neighboring communities of Craftsbury and Albany opposed it. Part of that split may have been due to the fact that Lowell would receive around a half million dollars each year for 25 years, while the other towns would receive closer to $50,000.

The Lowell project has become the poster child for controversial wind projects in Vermont. Steve Wright, a former Fish and Wildlife commissioner and outspoken opponent of the project, recently took aerial photos of the ridgeline to demonstrate what he sees as the destruction of a pristine area.

Other opponents were arrested when they trespassed on the site to block construction of the turbines.

Green Mountain Power wants the $150 million, 63-megawatt facility ready for operation by the end of 2012 in order to take advantage of roughly $48 million in federal production tax credits, which could expire at the end of the year. At that point it would be the largest operating wind facility in the state.

Critics hold up a Clean Water Act violation last fall and illegal logging at the site before construction began as examples of bad environmental stewardship. Environmental groups like the Vermont Public Interest Research Group support the project because renewable power helps to reduce the amount of electricity produced with fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

The Newark project

An even larger wind farm under consideration near Newark would produce up to 100 megawatts of power.

Currently, wind turbine manufacturer Nordex and Eolian Renewable Energy from Portsmouth, N.H., are applying to set up towers to gauge the wind capacity of a ridgeline in Newark, Brighton and other Essex County towns.

The project would be almost twice as large as the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell. It could mean 30 to 35 turbines 400 feet tall. Lowell will have 21 turbines.

The project received a negative reaction from the Newark Planning Commission. A letter from the commission states that a citizens group in the town garnered 300 signatures opposing the project. There are 492 residents in the town.

Wind projects in the Northeast Kingdom raised a brief stir in the Legislature this year also.

Four lawmakers from the Northeast Kingdom voted in favor of a two-year moratorium on wind projects in the state. That effort failed, but Republican Sen. Joe Benning from Lyndonville said the fight is not over.

Benning said he is opposed to the Newark project and other large wind farms in the Kingdom.

“I’m opposed to any industrial wind projects at a time when we have more than enough power on the New England grid to supply power we need,” Benning said.

He said the power from wind projects is not needed in the Northeast Kingdom, and if the more populous and prosperous Chittenden County demands power, projects should be built there.

Jack Kenworthy, CEO of Eolian Renewable Energy, said it would likely be at least two and a half years before the project could begin construction.

He said the project site is attractive because it already has existing roads and is large enough that turbines can be situated far enough away from homes to avoid bothering people with noise.

Kenworthy said he is well aware of the concerns of some residents. He said it is early in the process, however, and while a community group may have been able to rile up some opposition, he hopes to be able to educate people about the real effects of turbines rather than the unease that some people can feel when they are bombarded with information about the downsides of wind turbines.

“We’re trying to address people’s concerns in a productive way,” he said. “We don’t discount but don’t consider as final the signatures that were acquired by local groups. There just hasn’t been a lot of time to get accurate information in people’s hands.”

On the one hand, Kenworthy said, people accuse wind developers of presenting one-sided information since many studies are funded by developers. “There is a lot of misinformation out there,” he said, often coming from opponents of wind projects. It’s a challenge to have a reasonable dialogue once emotions begin to run high, he said.

Strife at the border

While the larger project in the Northeast Kingdom lurks in the background, another much smaller project in Derby Line has caused even more controversy.

Encore Redevelopment, a Burlington development company, plans to erect two 2.2-megawatt turbines on two farms on the Vermont-Canada border. Project manager Chad Farrell said his project has seen the same resistance as larger projects like Lowell.

“We are unfortunately facing the same opposition that much larger projects are facing, but these are much smaller, which is making it much more difficult to move forward with Vermont’s interest of developing in-state renewable energy,” Farrell said.

The Derby Line project has seen opposition on both sides of the border.

Vicky Farrand-Lewis, who lives in Derby near the two proposed turbines, said she is concerned about the infrasound and low frequency noise the machines could produce as well as reduced property values.

“For me it’s not just one thing,” Farrand-Lewis said. “The scale and siting of this project is wrong.”

She said 1,000 residents in a 2.5-mile radius will be affected. Farrand-Lewis said the developers have been dishonest about the amount of outreach they have made to affected community members.

The two turbines, which would sit on two different farms, have created disputes across the border, with the mayor of Stanstead, Quebec, threatening to cut off water to the U.S. side and a lingering dispute over which country’s law governing setbacks applies.

Paul Stuart, a city councilor in Stanstead, said more residents on the Quebec side will be affected by the noise and aesthetics of the turbines than on the U.S. side.

A sign

A sign in Stanstead, Quebec, in opposition to a proposed wind project in Derby Line, Vt. VTD photo/Alan Panebaker

“I think the reason there’s more opposition over here is because it’s going to affect more homes than it is on the U.S. side within a 2-kilometer circle,” he said.

The town of Stanstead rejected the project, but the Derby select board has yet to take it up for a vote.

Dick Saudek, former chair of the Vermont Public Service Board, is representing the town as its attorney.

He said Derby is trying to decide what its stance will ultimately be. He said if the town and the Public Service Board disagree, the board will prevail, but it will likely tread carefully in approving a project the town does not want.

Saudek said the controversy in other parts of the state appears to have affected the town’s reaction in Derby.

“The misgivings many people had with Lowell have influenced the thinking of people in Derby and brought many issues to the fore,” he said. “Many of these issues have been decided in other cases, but it’s a developing science. It’s hard to say the extent to which issues may come back to haunt developers.”

Southern Vermont and Chittenden County

In the past weeks and months, developers in various parts of the state have engaged in heated meetings with local communities. At meetings in southern Vermont, protesters voiced opposition against a 20-turbine proposed wind farm on the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline in Proctor, West Rutland, Hubbardtown and Castleton.

Another project in the Green Mountain National Forest in the towns of Readsboro and Searsburg has spawned a lawsuit against the federal government over effects on wildlife.

The Grandpa’s Knob project, proposed by Reunion Power, raised concerns from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, which says it is planned on a section of the Taconic Range that is considered “a rare, irreplaceable natural area” by the state.

A 10-megawatt project on Georgia Mountain in Milton and Georgia has rattled some neighbors. That four-turbine project is funded in part by renewable energy entrepreneur David Blittersdorf, who made headlines when his companies received millions in tax credits from the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund. He had been appointed to the board by Gov. Peter Shumlin and then later resigned in 2009. That same year, he became one of Shumlin’s biggest campaign supporters, contributing $28,000 to the governor’s election effort. Blittersdorf started NRG Systems, a wind measurement technology company, and is now CEO of AllEarth Renewables. He declined to comment for this story.

Neighbors of the project expressed concerns earlier this month when construction began and they were not notified.

For Fletcher resident Heidi FitzGerald, the issue is the same as for other projects in the state. She says the four-turbine project will be too close — 150 feet — from her 83-year-old mother’s property line.

FitzGerald has been working with neighbors to fight the project.

She said the policy of the state appears to be “going green, at any cost basically.”

“We don’t have that much land here in Vermont, and our mountains are some of the most important parts of our state,” she said. “Putting industrial turbines on top of ridgelines doesn’t seem to be what we should be about.”

Martha Staskus, the spokesperson for the Georgia Mountain Community Wind project, is also chair of the board of Renewable Energy Vermont, a trade group for the renewable energy industry.

Staskus has been measuring wind and working on projects in Vermont for more than 25 years. She said the reason things seem to be coming to a head with wind energy is that after long permitting processes, projects are starting to be built.

Many potentially viable spots are not being considered for development, she said.

“If you look at all the windy places in Vermont and what’s actually going in, it’s a small percentage,” she said.

Despite what a very vocal opposition across the state says, Staskus said, citizen involvement in wind projects is quite robust.

She said the Legislature’s goal of more renewable energy, including wind, is a reflection of what people want. She said the opposition to projects comes from a very small minority of Vermonters who make a lot of noise and are very effective at steering the media.

“I think there is a very small in numbers, loud in voice, well-funded, dedicated organization that’s looking to move their agenda forward,” Staskus said. “That is to not have wind turbines in Vermont. Poll after poll and survey after survey comes back again and again with Vermonters supporting in-state renewable generation. The Legislature responded from that perspective.”

The Georgia Mountain project has its license in hand and needs to be up and running by the end of the year to take advantage of federal money.

The opposition

Persistent opposition appears to come from numerous wind projects stems from residents who live near projects and two well-organized groups that reach out to local residents.

One group, Vermonters for a Clean Environment, says it is not against wind energy.

Annette Smith, the executive director of VCE, has been working with the organization for 14 years.

“From our perspective, it’s not about opposing one technology or being in favor of another,” she said. “The first job is making sure the public has a say. We advocate for a collaborative stakeholder processes.”

One problem wind developers have, Smith said, is they fail to engage local communities adequately.

Smith cut her teeth fighting a gas pipeline project and later moved on to industrial-scale wind projects. She said her group supports smaller, community-scale projects.

According to IRS 990 records, Vermonters for a Clean Environment received $155,794 in private contributions in 2010. Between 2006 and 2010, it received $590,484 in gifts, grants, contributions and membership fees.

A Sterling College student who chose to identify himself as Bumblebee takes a break after climbing to the campsite. Photo by Chris Braithwaite.

A Sterling College student who chose to identify himself as Bumblebee takes a break after climbing to a campsite protesters set up. Photo by Chris Braithwaite.

“We support community-based projects of all sorts,” she said. For example, she said Vermonters would probably accept the smaller turbines that exist at a project in Searsburg.

Smith said for any sort of project, there needs to be a stakeholder process where community members can air their concerns and actually have a say in how and where projects should be built.

She claims her organization does not have an agenda.

Lukas Snelling, executive director of Energize Vermont, an organization that has challenged numerous wind projects, says likewise his group is not anti-wind.

“We’re a pro-renewable energy organization,” he said. “We just want to see it done right. We want to do the right projects in the right places. It’s about finding a process that facilitates appropriate-scale renewable energy.”

Snelling said one concern is that developers appear to be driven by profits and ignoring local concerns when it comes to some wind projects.

“We’re really in a gold rush for this,” he said.

The “gold rush” Snelling refers to is the federal grants and tax credits provided by the federal government for wind and solar projects.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Programs Office, the Granite Reliable wind project in Coos, N.H., received a partial guarantee of a $168.9 million loan from the federal government.

A November New York Times article outlines how similar guarantees, requiring customers to pay higher rates, can guarantee private investor profits for years to come. But federal and state officials say the assistance makes sense both environmentally and economically to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost the economy.

Vermont’s unique renewable energy program in particular incentivizes in-state projects over out-of-state by allowing utilities to sell “renewable energy credits” from projects like wind farms. Other states in New England have “renewable portfolio standards” that require utilities to purchase set amounts of renewable power. They can do this by buying it directly from renewable sources or by purchasing the credits. Vermont utilities do not have to buy or account for the credits, so they are able to sell them out of state, keeping the costs of projects down.

The subsidies for renewable energy projects are a talking point for wind opponents, who say the industry should be able to stand on its own.

On the national level, one accountability group has even traced some local efforts against wind and solar energy to ultra-conservative groups with financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Industry groups say much of the opposition comes from a sense of hysteria, often times brought on by inaccurate information.

Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont, said opponents of wind projects will often tout issues like “shadow flicker” — where turbine blades cast shadows through windows of neighboring properties, low frequency noise and water quality issues from construction runoff.

“The most frustrating thing is that so much of the information being provided is skewed or inaccurate and doesn’t represent the facts,” she said. “The facts are not always as compelling as things that get people impassioned.”

Proponents of wind projects in the state say Sheffield Wind in the Northeast Kingdom is an example of a successful project with minimal effects on the environment or neighbors.

A report by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources found that construction of the Sheffield Wind Project had no adverse impact on the water quality and aquatic life of cold-water streams near the project.

The project also remained below sound levels set by the Public Service Board.

Josh Bagnato, the environmental permitting and compliance officer of Sheffield Wind, said the company went above and beyond to ensure there were no impacts on wildlife either. He said it took account of beech trees to make sure enough bear habitat remained, conserved 2,700 acres and studied curtailing the turbines to protect bats.

Much of the controversy between wind opponents and proponents boils down to which scientific studies are used. On the one hand, developers often hire their own consultants to do studies on things like low-frequency and other noise effects. A study conducted in Falmouth, Mass., that was partially funded by an opponent of a local wind farm, found that low-frequency noises from nearby wind turbines produced adverse health effects, such as sleep deprivation and anxiety. Town officials opted to shut down one of those turbines this month.

Proponents of wind projects in Vermont say much of the opposition likely comes from the fact that for many years Vermonters have not had to see where their power comes from.

Much of the power Vermonters use comes from Hydro-Quebec and other out-of-state sources. Now that the state has made the choice to push more renewables in-state, Vermonters are seeing the effect of that choice.

John Lamontagne, a spokesman for First Wind, the Sheffield project developer, said opponents of projects in New England have been particularly vocal.

“Certainly, there are pockets of opposition in a lot of locations,” he said. “In Vermont, the opponents have been particularly vocal and very active in opposition to wind energy and to renewables.”

He said citizens in Hawaii, for example, are more receptive to renewable energy. They are also more directly affected by fluctuations in fossil fuel costs because most of their energy comes from fossil fuels.

Wind turbines

Two of the 16 turbines at the Sheffield Wind Project. VTD photo/Alan Panebaker

Despite a widespread media campaign and plenty of outreach to disgruntled neighbors, wind opponents have seen minimal success in stopping projects. Kingdom Community Wind is in mid construction, Sheffield is up and the Georgia Mountain and Deerfield projects have certificates of public good in hand from the Public Service Board.

In its decisions, the Public Service Board has addressed issues like noise, habitat fragmentation and property values, often finding that the projects’ benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

The board’s Kingdom Community Wind order states: “While it is possible that some individual properties may experience negative value impacts as a result of the proposed project, there is no empirical basis to assume that the proposed project will have any negative impacts to aggregate town, county-wide, or regional real property values.”

Likewise, the board found, with noise and water pollution.

The board has, however, refused to approve one project. One 2006 board order did find a project planned for East Mountain in East Haven would disturb too much undeveloped land.

The order begins: “The ultimate question in this proceeding … is whether the proposed project promotes the general good of the state. Answering that question for this project, and for any proposed high-elevation wind generation facility in Vermont, requires a balancing of two fundamental state policies: promoting in-state renewable resources, and protecting Vermont’s ridgelines.”

That particular project, the order said, was in the wrong place.

“While this renewable-energy project would provide undeniable benefits, those benefits would come at a significant cost: the project, with four, 329-foot-tall wind turbines, would be located in the midst of extensive lands that have been protected from development through years of effort and the expenditure of millions of dollars of public funds,” the order reads.

Environmental critics of the efforts against wind

While Energize Vermont and Vermonters for a Clean Environment focus on preserving the state’s ridgelines, at least one environmental group says aesthetics and views should not be factors in wind farm siting.

In comments on the state’s comprehensive energy plan, the Vermont Public Interest Research Group said considering stopping a project because it might affect someone’s view could effectively ban turbines on Vermont’s ridgelines.

“We need, as a state, to develop clean, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels,” the group’s comments states. “Giving, or considering giving, such weight to aesthetic concerns should not be on the table at all, given what is at stake.”

Paul Burns, VPIRG’s executive director, said his group has been working on energy issues for 40 years and has opposed its fair share of projects and practices, including the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, trash incineration and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

Burns said he has no problem with citizens expressing concerns over specific projects and with some groups such as the Green Mountain Club, which has sounded the alarm about the possibility of lifting a wind “moratorium” on state lands.

The problem, he said is with the categorical opposition against every wind project.

“It’s human nature that people would be particularly concerned about something in their neighborhood,” he said. “The idea of people coming together to express concerns about a local issue, that’s democracy. It’s more of a problem with the coordinated campaign among a small number of groups and individuals who simply oppose all wind out of hand that has nothing to do with specific issues of any particular project. That position is, in my opinion, indefensible.”

Green Mountain Power's Searsburg wind turbines, EPA image

Burns said VPIRG focuses more on broader energy policies like getting energy from a variety of clean sources. The group has not opposed any specific wind projects in the state. VPIRG’s annual revenues in 2010 were $651,226, according to Guidestar, a nonprofit reporting group. In 2009, it had $504,397 in funds and $511,917 in 2008. In addition, VPIRG has an education fund that brought in $1.85 million over that same three-year period.

Burns said critics of wind appear to be missing the big picture. While groups like Vermonters for a Clean Environment and Energize Vermont support solar projects it is not possible for residential solar to provide all the power Vermont needs and uses any time soon, he said.

If the state wants to wean itself off fossil fuels, Burns said, wind needs to be part of that portfolio.

“It’s not an either-or proposition,” he said.

Is there a solution?

Wind energy portrays clearly the competing values between combatting climate change and preserving Vermont’s landscape. While there may be no one solution, a professor at Vermont Law School recommends a different approach.

Sean Nolon, a law professor who specializes in alternative dispute resolution, wrote an article on wind siting and citizen involvement.

He proposes that developers and the government should involve citizens earlier on in the process to help develop policy rather than fight projects that are already on their way toward completion.

“The premise is that citizens who are involved in developing a comprehensive wind policy will be more effective and productive participants in the siting decisions that implement those policies,” Nolon’s paper says.

The idea, he said, is that the state should first develop a policy of how many wind projects it wants and where they are appropriate.

“The model I propose starts with a statewide process to determine how much energy we want to get from renewable resources,” he said. “Then the state should decide what facilities are appropriate and where they are appropriate. Finally, once that has been done, then the state needs to provide support for municipalities and applicants with projects in those areas.”

He said one of the problems is that the Public Service Board has to look at each project on a case-by-case basis rather than through a lens that is guided by a more comprehensive state policy.

“If we want to help the Public Service Board with their decisions, we should really have a statewide or regional plan that identifies what level of renewable energy we want, what do we want renewable energy facilities to look like, what areas are appropriate sites for those facilities, and how are we going to cut back on energy from fossil fuels,” he said. “Ideally, citizens should be involved in all stages of that planning process.”

For now, tension will inevitably continue in the state over these projects.

As for his sense of public support for wind power, “People cry louder than they praise,” Nolon said.

Editor’s note: Information about VPIRG’s finances was added to this story at 7:43 a.m. May 25.

Clarification: We clarified the original section on wind politics. Several readers complained that we didn’t get it right. We said that Douglas’ opposition to wind was a de facto moratorium. We changed the section with the following:

Former Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, was an outspoken critic of industrial wind. Three projects were approved by the Vermont Public Service Board during his tenure — Sheffield, the Deerfield expansion and Georgia mountain — and a number of others were proposed.

Since Gov. Peter Shumlin was elected in 2010, 11 projects have moved forward. The governor, a Democrat, has been an avid backer of the renewable industry in Vermont, and he pushed for wind development when he was in the Senate.

Vermont Wind Map, May 2012

Vermont Wind Map, May 2012

Alan Panebaker

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74 Comments on "A dozen industrial wind farms under way in Vermont despite intense local opposition"

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Pete Novick
4 years 6 months ago
Why not build the wind turbines away from where people live, work and play? To do so would pretty much rule out most of New England save for the northern and westernmost areas of Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis and Aroostook counties in Maine. Every time I see one of those satellite photos taken of the United States at night, I am reminded of how remote this area is. Such an effort would require exchanging the current state-centered approach we now use for a regional approach, where the needs and desires of diverse groups might be better served. The added cost for… Read more »
Avram Patt
4 years 6 months ago
I am not sure whether Peter Novick’s alternative of building truly massive wind projects in extremely remote wilderness as far away from humans as possible is serious or facetious, so I will not put a lot of effort into discussing that, other than to say that Vermont-scale “industrial” wind projects have far less of a footprint than what he is describing, especially when you add in the hundreds of miles of transmission infrastructure that would need to be sited and built. Mostly, he has come up with a number, from I’m not sure where, about how many acres are taken… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Avram, Audible noise, LFN and infrasound from utility-scale (1 MW to 3 MW) industrial wind turbines, IWTs, will adversely affect many people living within about a mile of the units. GMP claims a buffer zone of 2,700 acres for the Lowell Mountain IWTs, but its impacted area near its 3.5 miles of ridge line is about (3.5 + 2) x 2 = 11 sq mi = 7,040 acres. All over the world people are having the same physical and mental symptoms after IWTs have been installed too close to their residences; people with Down’s disease, autistic children, those with PTSD,… Read more »
Justin Turco
4 years 6 months ago
Hi Avram, I have 60 acres in Ira. Could you fit 15 turbines on it and have them actually work? Draw a circle around the project area at Sheffield. Include a 2 mile buffer around the perimeter to protect neighbors from sleepless nights. Now divide that by 15. That’s how many acres it takes to site a wind turbine. Period. You would all like us to believe a wind turbine only “directly” impacts the actual clearing that it sits on. A wind turbine’s zone of misery is much larger than that. Also, I think it is interesting how VPIRG’s Paul… Read more »
Bruce Post
4 years 6 months ago

Who speaks for the mountains?

michael gohl
4 years 6 months ago

If lights were turned off at night, especially in federal, state, and corporate office facilities, energy consumption and resultant night glare would diminish. If there were a need to keep the lights on in unoccupied buildings, at night, then sensor switches could be put in service to energize the lights where movement is detected. It’s sad that there are some who feel a need for night light while they are as warm as toast – asleep. Small solutions are sometimes better.

4 years 6 months ago
“Environmental groups like the Vermont Public Interest Research Group support the project because renewable power helps to reduce the amount of electricity produced with fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.” Energy systems engineers, with decades of experience analyzing energy systems, have analyzed the real-time, 1/4-hour grid operations data published by EirGrid, manager of the Irish grid: – CO2 emissions – wind energy produced – total energy produced The engineers were expecting a CO2 emissions reduction of 70 to 90 % of the values claimed by wind energy promoters. Their usual claim (without any measurement) is a 1:1 ratio, i.e.,… Read more »
frank seawright
4 years 6 months ago
It appears to be standard practice to conduct a meteorological study before moving ahead with plans for a wind farm – common sense. Why spend millions if the project will not produce? I became interested in learning how the results of these studies are taken into consideration whenever the PSB is processing an application for a certificate of public good. Astonishingly it seems that those results are not taken into consideration at all. The PSB, it appears, accepts the word of the applicant that building a wind farm there will be to the public good. I find this, if true,… Read more »
Avram Patt
4 years 6 months ago

Cases before the PSB are litigated, contested cases. In the project I am familiar with, Sheffield, the developer presented meteorolical studies into evidence along with testimony by the scientists responsible for the study. All parties, the Department of Public Service, Agency of Natural Resources, opposing groups and individuals, and the PSB itself hsve ample opportunity to review the study, question the experts under oath, challenge the results or their credentials, provide their own witnesses and evidence. If you actually read the record in these cases, no one simpky takes the developers word, on anything.

frank seawright
4 years 6 months ago

Thanks.

4 years 6 months ago
Avram is correct that there is a lot of paperwork filed. But at the end of the day, the PSB listens to the applicants’ experts and ignores the expert witness testimony of towns and neighbors. In Lowell and Georgia Mountain, the PSB granted the wishes of the applicants for ridiculously-small setbacks from neighboring property lines (196 and 155 feet, respectively) while ignoring the DPS recommendation in the Georgia Mountain case of the nationwide standard of 1.1x the total height. The public spent a lot of money bringing qualified noise experts to the table, and a doctor who has read every… Read more »
frank seawright
4 years 6 months ago
Mr Patt. I have looked at STATE OF VERMONT PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD Docket No. 7156 relating to the issuance of a certificate of public good for the Sheffield wind farm. I see nothing beyond an assertion by the company that reads : 6. UPC has gathered comprehensive, long-term wind resource data for the Project from the on-site meteorological towers. UPC has also obtained eight years of long-term wind data from a reference anemometer on Burke Mountain, located approximately twelve miles east of the site. Based upon all of the available data, the site has a predicted long-term average wind speed… Read more »
Stanley Shapiro
4 years 6 months ago

Governor Shumlin clearly stated that the towns should be able to decide whether they want industrialization of their ridgelines or not.This likely represents the fairest and wisest approach in a democracy.It is necessary that people need to be educated about the consequences of these projects. It is also imperative that those effected are compensated for their losses.Anyone whose home is within audible distance of industrial sized wind turbines will have their properties ultimately become worthless.

Avram Patt
4 years 6 months ago
This statement in the article is not correct and I hope it gets fixed: “Former Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, was an outspoken critic of industrial wind and his opposition resulted in a de facto moratorium on large projects. … That temporary hold on projects ended when Gov. Peter Shumlin was elected in 2009.” First Wind (then called UPC) began actively studying the site and meeting with people in the Sheffield area in 2004. Washington Electric Co-op made a commitment to participate in the project in 2005. First Wind filed for approval with the PSB in 2006 and the PSB… Read more »
David Allard
4 years 6 months ago

Burlington gets the power, NEK has to look at the ugly things.

geoffrey hurley
4 years 6 months ago
I was in Gilsom NH.last week and we climbed a hill that had a 360 view… for the first time i saw a what i would concider a large scale wind “farm” and i was shocked at how apalling it was to me, Of course i was standind next to a fire tower, that had three huge cell phone radiar gizmos and was more than likley being compleatley cooked by non ionized electomagnetic radiation, That should be more of a concern for all of us!!! but i tried to ignore it and enjoy the view,it felt like a strange science… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago

For once I agree with Avram. Douglas did nothing to stop Sheffield, even though ANR was totally opposed and then all of a sudden there was an MOU and all the problems went away.

For the details about how the US Fish & Wildlife Services concerns about water quality were wiped away, read this:
http://vermontersforacleanenvironment.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/what-other-levers-did-first-wind-pull/

4 years 6 months ago

Sheffield is the exception. Alan was speaking more broadly. The point is, we’ve gone from two projects to 14 in two years.

Avram Patt
4 years 6 months ago
Anne, this isn’t a quibble, since the wording in Alan’s article draws a cause and effect between the projects potentially in the pipeline and the change in administration. Statewide stakeholder planning/siting processes for wind were initiated in 2002 and continued somewhat during the Douglas administration, full documentation still posted on the DPS’ website. The ridgeline locations with wind generating potential were mapped out several years before that, and by the 2004-2005 or so, many people including me were saying in various forums that there probably a dozen, maybe a few more feasible sites in the state. So here they now… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago

When “some opposition” comes from the governor, in this case Douglas who adamantly opposed industrial wind, it sets a certain tone. Stakeholders moved ahead, as did the Legislature, but Douglas, in no uncertain terms, made it clear he would do everything he could to block such efforts (mainly by using his bully pulpit).

Stanley Shapiro
4 years 6 months ago
The statement that polling contradicts the opposition to industrial wind turbines has to do with errors in obtaining an accurate sample.The correct sampling would be to ask people who were directly effected by the turbines.If a majority were to be pleased with interjection of turbines in their life it would be one thing,however most individuals do not have a clue as to what people whose lives are decimated by their presence go through.VPIRG has had wind developers on their board so they are at obvious financil risk if they choose to respect the pristine mountain enviroment.The notion that we must… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago

CONSERVATION< CONSERVATION< CONSERVATION, CONSERVATION.

VT is doing a very small percentage of the energy efficiency it could do. Some say we could double or triple the efficiency we are doing.

We will still need energy, but we could use much less & maintain the same standard of living,

There is an alternative to wind: NOTHING.

Hilton Dier
4 years 6 months ago
Ms. Levine, forgive me, but you come close to absolutely contradicting yourself in your last two sentences. There is no “none of the above.” The subtext of anti-wind power arguments in Vermont is that we should export the environmental consequences of electricity production to somebody else’s back yard. Fracking? Banned here. Mountaintop removal coal mining is not our problem. Nuclear waste goes to Texas. Hydro Quebec is the Cree Indian’s problem. Small hydro is fine, as long as it’s not the river I care about. And we’re not really against wind in principle, just near us. Smaller turbines producing more… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Hilton, Here is a viable alternative: increased energy efficiency. Give EE the same subsidies and regulatory relief as RE and very few solar or wind turbine facilities would be built in Vermont. It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from expensive renewables, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent energy, towards increased EE. Those renewables would not be needed, if those funds were used for increased EE. EE is the low-hanging fruit, has not scratched the surface, is by far the best approach, because it provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the… Read more »
Hilton Dier
4 years 6 months ago
Mr. Post, You seem to miss my point. Yes, EE by all means and prioritized. And yet, we can’t conserve down to zero. The remaining electrons have to come from somewhere. If we were more efficient and conserved then fossil and nuclear resources would deplete more slowly, but they would still deplete. They will damage the local and global environment as they do so. If we don’t develop renewable resources here, then Someone Else’s Back Yard gets the impact. If you want to make the argument that the effect of wind development on the land near you is more important… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Hilton, “Just don’t ignore the facts that 1) there does actually have to be energy production, and 2) all energy production has some negative effect somewhere.” Not ignoring the facts I have been doing as an energy systems engineer since about 1963. The per capita consumption of total energy, including electricity, by Europeans is less than half of the US. Just imagine if that were the case in the US. CO2 and other pollutants would be half and energy bills would be half and goods and services would be less costly and the transmission system would be more than adequate… Read more »
Jed Guertin
4 years 6 months ago
Since wind towers have such little impact on the environment and property values and are not really an eyesore. At least that’s what the PSB and PSD indicate. It has always seemed to me that the ideal places to put the towers is really: 1. Where the best wind exists. 2. Areas that have already been industrialized (ie: torn up, built upon commercially, developed, 3. Where there are few full time residents. 3. Close to large demand. I suggest that more serious consideration be given to the mountain tops of ski areas like Jay Peak, Stowe, Killington, Stratton, etc. Instead… Read more »
Avram Patt
4 years 6 months ago

Jed, the places where projects are being built or considered are chosen because they meet your #1 criterion. Vermont’s wind resources have been studied and mapped for over 15 years, publically available information.

4 years 6 months ago
I just looked at the wind resource maps. Some of the sites being chosen for wind development seem poor compared to the high wind sites, most of which are at ski areas and along the spine of the Green Mountains in the National Forest. If VCE is successful in its litigation against the USFS on the Deerfield wind project, the spine of the Green Mountains is safe from wind development. If the USFS prevails, there are numerous other possible locations that developers have identified for wind development along the spine of the Green Mountains. Why don’t wind developers site their… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Jed, Around Vermont’s ski areas are many thousands of households and businesses. The noise, especially the health-damaging low frequency noise (20 – 200 Hz) and infrasound (less than 20 Hz) from the 2 to 3 MW IWTs would be unacceptable within a mile of each unit, real estate values would drop, less people would come, businesses would have less sales and profits, less taxes would be collected. Government leaders have decided it is more politically expedient to place the IWTs in remote, pristine, windy areas with few people. Few votes are involved and the flora and fauna do not vote.… Read more »
Gina Campoli
4 years 6 months ago
Efficiency absolutely, let’s turn off all those unnecessary lights and read real books instead of our computer screens. But at the end of the day – unless one lives off the grid or can do without – electricity must come from a non – emissions generating source to serve us all. That is if we believe climate change is a problem and the health of people globally is suffering from the current burning of oil, gas, and coal for energy generation. The burden on those who want to stop the destruction, desecration, etc. of our ridgelines, at some point need… Read more »
Liesse Langlois
4 years 6 months ago
I am in total agreement. Every home should be working to providing at least some of its own energy. Live in an area with some wind? Put up your own windmill…put solar panels on your home…dig your own well. You may not be able to provide all of your power needs, but you can certainly provide some, and help take the burden off of the public grid. You will reduce your own costs, too, and will not be so much at the mercy of the market when energy prices fluctuate. Turn off your lights…if you live in the country, take… Read more »
Heidi Newsom
4 years 5 months ago

I could not have said it better!!

4 years 6 months ago
Gina, Many people engage in various forms of idealism that is largely based on ignorance. Wind energy does not reduce CO2 anywhere near to what is claimed by promoters. Here is an explanation: Because wind energy is variable and intermittent, it requires backup by quick-ramping, open cycle gas turbine generators that ramp up when wind energy ebbs and ramp down when wind energy surges which occurs at least 100 times per day. Such part-load-ramping operation is inefficient and requires extra fuel/kWh and emits extra CO2/kWh. The extras mostly offset what wind energy was meant to reduce, as proven by analysis… Read more »
krister adams
4 years 6 months ago
Willem, Your education is obvious and appreciated. However at some point after reviewing/discussing/digesting all possible technical parameters, one must look at all problems/situations at a very human level. I don’t believe Gina is simply naive or ignorant as you imply. She speaks on a personal, human level. If we as a people don’t get our act together and earnestly produce renewable, sustainable energy, the Vermont we leave our kids and their kids, etc., will be severely compromised because of pollution, high energy costs and on & on. Vermont, the green, cutting edge, independant state that we are should be leading… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Krister, Many well-meaning people have been led to believe Vermont is a good place for wind energy by RE promoters and government officials who act as enablers. Vermont is not a good place for wind energy, except on SOME ridge lines. Here are some capacity factors: New England ridge line CF = 0.32, per actual Maine performance records; New York State CF = 0.227 in 2010, 0.236 in 2011; Denmark CF = 0.242; The Netherlands = CF 0.186; Germany = CF 0.167; Ireland is best in Europe, CF = 0.32. These are all much less than on the Great Plains… Read more »
krister adams
4 years 6 months ago

Willem, With all due respect, enough with the stats. It is virtually impossible to verify with 100% accurracy all of your citings. Basically you posit that there is some conspiracy or lies or rose-colored glasses being emmitted by those of us who would like to save our beautiful State and world from becoming energy refugees.

Steven Gorelick
4 years 6 months ago
It would be hard to find a ‘big wind’ opponent who doesn’t agree with Gina Campoli on the issue of efficiency, but her wind generation comments are way off base. “Every electron generated from wind replaces generation demand now or in the future from another dirtier source on the complex web of ISO New England”. A recent study prepared by General Electric for ISO-NE, the managing entity of the New England grid – indicates that at 20% wind we will need to add 310 MW of gas-fired ten minute spinning reserve (TMSR) to ensure that the grid can manage that… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
The energy storage already exists, it just takes desire to make use of it. For example imagine a large retaining pond and a system that uses excess wind energy to pump water into it, and then, when the wind has died down, using that potential energy to turn water driven turbines. You could do the same with solar power. You don’t even need to use water – you could use a system of rocks or sand or whatever your imagination desires – or you could use a combination along with storage batteries … the possibilities are endless. The point being… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Rama, Utility-scale thermal storage depends on suitable land topography, water resources, capital and subsidies. The physical attributes of Kansas, etc., would not be adequate. Norway, where I lived, has all of these. As a result Norway’s energy supply is about 98% hydro. Vermont is luckier than other states to have the nearby, low-cost, nearly- CO2-free energy of Hydro-Quebec. Thermal storage would theoretically be possible in Vermont by building at least ten 500 ft high reservoirs, several square miles each, and pump water from Lake Champlain into the reservoirs with ridge line wind energy, a la Lowell Mountain, and several square… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
One thing this reporter didn’t do is attend a public meeting with wind developers. Three took place in Rutland County during the time he was researching his story. There is one more, Wednesday at 6:30 in Hubbardton at the fire house on Monument Hill Road. These are rather rare opportunities. Unlike Open Houses or PSB public hearings, these kinds of dog and pony shows followed by Q&As are the only place where Vermonters can interact with their elected officials (legislators usually attend, in addition to selectboard and planning commission members) as well as the wind developers. It’s real democracy in… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
All, Many great comments pro and con from skeptical people and believers. Here is the governor of Maine, who was a believer in wind energy and became a skeptical, finally saying the same things some of us have been saying for some years. http://bangordailynews.com/2012/05/27/news/state/lepages-critical-wind-power-stance-creating-uncertainty/ I think this is a major breakthrough. Mass had lost ITS soul regarding wind energy and is now going through the same soul-searching after many citizen complaints. Vermont is in danger of losing ITS souls with wind energy projects such as Lowell Mountain. If we could only get Obama to shift HIS focus from renewables to… Read more »
Doug Hoffer
4 years 6 months ago

Mr. Post

Some of the links you provided contain information about renewables and jobs that you have been promoting for some time. The cited reports have been completely discredited and I have asked you to stop referencing them in your posts.

We cannot have a reasoned discourse about this issue if you keep polluting the discussion with intentionally misleading information. Please take responsibility for the information you bring to this debate.

4 years 6 months ago
Dough, The reports you refer to were discredited by organizations, such as the AWEA. They also tried to discredit this report regarding wind energy’s CO2 emissions reduction being much less than claimed by wind energy promoters. http://www.clepair.net/IerlandUdo.html As I noted earlier, Europe started its RE build-outs about 10 years before the US and as a result the negatives about RE ‘s installed capital cost, energy production and job creation became apparent much earlier than in the US. Here is a US report: – In 2009, the VT-DPS did a study of the 50 MW SPEED program that showed huge investments… Read more »
Doug Hoffer
4 years 6 months ago
Sorry The Spanish report (source of most of the BS) was discredited by the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab among others. Here is a quote from the Conclusion of the NREL paper. “The recent report from King Juan Carlos University deviates from the traditional research methodologies used to estimate jobs impacts. In addition, it lacks transparency and supporting statistics, and fails to compare RE technologies with comparable energy industry metrics. It also fails to account for important issues such as the role of government in emerging markets, the success of RE exports in Spain, and the fact… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
“Finally, differences in policy are significant enough that the results of analysis conducted in the Spanish context are not likely to be indicative of workforce impacts in the United States or other countries.” Doug, The NREL is working with the AWEA to promote wind energy. They would likely find fault with almost any report adverse to wind energy. The Spanish wrote their report after their RE build-outs and found NET job losses; they had actual field data to go by. The VT-DPS wrote its report of the 50 MW SPEED program before it was built and predicted it would have… Read more »
Eric Rosenbloom
4 years 6 months ago

The AWEA says 37,000 jobs will be lost if the PTC is not extended. At $14 billion spent (last year) by the feds to ensure investment returns on wind, that’s $380,000 per job annually. Since the AWEA claim is doubtless exaggerated, the cost is even more. It is obvious that such money could be used much more efficiently to create jobs. But as it is instead squandered in this way on wind, it is also obvious that, since the money has to come out of someone else’s pocket, it has a negative effect on jobs overall.

4 years 6 months ago

This is a great summary of ALL the issues around wind power in Vermont. However, my thought, as a non-energy person, is that we should emulate what is happening in Europe. Small turbines run at individual farms or small collectives and communities, planned and managed by those they serve and sharing of the value by those who are served. Larger is not always better and certainly the concept may be much more saleable to those with a vested interest in the profits. More large profits for corporations is not the way to go.

4 years 6 months ago
Mary, Small turbines are grossly inefficient. Here is an example: The residential wind system is for a recently built LEED Platinum house in Charlotte, Vermont, capacity 10 kW, grid-connected, 80-ft mast, all-in cost $40,500, or $4,050/kW. The project received a CEDF cash subsidy of $12,500 Power production is about 6,286 kWh/yr; 6,094 kWh is used, 192 kWh is sold to the utility as part of “net-metering”  Capacity factor = (6,094 + 192) kWh/yr/(10 kW x 8,760 hr/yr) = 0.0712  The owner pays the utility $9/mo. for standby power.  Useful service life is about 10-15 years after which it will need… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
“However, my thought, as a non-energy person, is that we should emulate what is happening in Europe. Small turbines run at individual farms or small collectives and communities, planned and managed by those they serve and sharing of the value by those who are served.” Mary, I AM an energy person and lived 26 years in various nations of Europe, including 3 years in Germany, and I have seen only a few small turbines on individual farms, etc. Denmark has many OLDER small turbines, about 200 – 500 MW, serving communities that are slowly being replaced in some areas with… Read more »
3 months 5 days ago

With small turbines, are you talking about some underground wind power movement? Europe has been overrun with very large turbines. The UK and Germany especially are seriously blighted by the big machines, but tax credits were cut as opposition mounts. The general policy pressure is still to build more big turbines, though. They think putting them offshore will help but they almost always still visible – and more costly.

Greg Bryant
4 years 6 months ago
Lets not forget who these supporters are,,, They represent electric utilities, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the state. Its about money. Washington Electric and Green Mountain Power continue to ignore mountains of science and public opinion that tell them, “The emperor has no clothes.” Large Scale Wind is not going to work. It is destructive, devisive, and wasteful. It is understandable that these utilities are defensive. Their reputations are at stake. (I would fight to keep the myth going too.) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these same people gave up this fallacy and began to work toward… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Mary and Graig, This is not about CO2 reduction (see my above comment), or job creation, it is about the special interests, the top 1% of households, grabbing as much subsidies and write-offs as possible to avoid paying income taxes and having above-market power purchase agreements, PPAs, that will provide them with steadily-increasing incomes for at least 20 years, with the other 99% paying higher electric rates to make it all possible. See above Maine Governor Page’s speech. Europe has been at RE about 10 years earlier than the US and as a result the adverse NET job creation results… Read more »
Paul Brouha
4 years 6 months ago
My thanks to Annette Smith and Stan Shapiro for pointing out that wind turbine projects (we abut the Sheffield Project) are not good neighbors. On a north and northwest wind they are annoyingly noisy and they are easthetically shocking all the time. They definitely are affecting our peaceful use and enjoyment of our property. In addition, three properties–the King George School, Annie and Tim Leverette’s property, and Luis Guzman’s property which are, and have been, for sale and in the immediate noise and viewshed haven’t had any serious prospective buyers since well before the project began operation. I fear these… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Paul, The PSB, a quasi-political entity, is bending over backwards to justify wind turbines on ridge lines. It is using a dBA standard that is no longer in use in Maine after many complaints for 3 years. Maine now requires 42 dBA AT THE PROPERTY LINE OF THE ABUTTER. That means wind turbines must be on large tracts of land so that any wind turbine is about 1 mile from the abutter’s border to ensure an abutter does not have his property devalued due to visuals and noise. – Noise: The 3 MW wind turbines need about a 1 mile… Read more »
Eric Rosenbloom
4 years 6 months ago
A few comments … “[Staskus] said the opposition to projects comes from a very small minority of Vermonters.” Yes, from those people actually affected by or who care about the animals and ecosystems affected by sprawling industrial facilities on the ridgelines. Gabrielle Stebbins, executive director of Renewable Energy Vermont: “The facts are not always as compelling as things that get people impassioned.” Indeed, it is not facts that drive wind development. As the article makes clear, it is about selling renewable energy credits, not actually reducing the use of other sources. “Josh Bagnato, the environmental permitting and compliance officer of… Read more »
Jed Guertin
4 years 6 months ago
Avram, You’re right the locations meet the wind criteria, as do the ski area mt tops. The mountain tops also have access. They also have high electric demand requirements. Especially during the winter. Willem Post the majority of ski area sites would be several miles downhill of the “business and residential areas. In fact, the vast majority of full time residents would live many miles from the sites. Regarding low frequency and infrasound, you’d still be OK by your standard. Regarding property values. Any site will substantially lower property values greater than is being accounted for today. The flip side… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
“The protective standard is 35 dBA, something that even GMP’s doctor expert said in a webinar he would want if there was a wind turbine proposed near his home.” Annette, Any noise standard should be AT THE PROPERTY LINE OF THE ABUTTER, so the abutter can continue to enjoy his entire property, windows open or closed at HIS option; he might wish to build houses, etc., near his property line in the future. Vermont’s existing noise code is meaningless for the unique sound spectra of wind turbines. This is well known by the PSB, VT-DPs, etc., as professional acoustical consultants… Read more »
Kevin Jones
4 years 6 months ago
The paragraph below ignores the main Problem with the Vermont renewable energy laws. The problem is not that selling the renewable energy credits saves the utilities and their customers money. The problem is that given that the state encourages selling the renewable energy credits it negates the main reason for supporting renewable energy in the first place. If Vermont utilities continue to sell the RECs then these project are no longer renewable energy for Vermonters and have no net climate benefit for the planet. We are simply double counting what other states have mandated in their real renewable policies as… Read more »
4 years 5 months ago

Selling the RECs amounts to another state subsidy to RE.

Vermont households and businesses, already strapped because of the Great Recession, get to subsidize RE in Vermont.

Project developers, i.e., mostly Vermont’s wind oligarchy and utilities, sell the RECs (one for each MWh, whether it reduces CO2 or not; nothing is measured) to businesses and utilities in other states that find it much less costly to buy the RECs, than actually clean up their own CO2-emitting operations.

Taking away a benefit from the top 1% is a non-starter regarding RECs as well.

Avram Patt
4 years 5 months ago
Actually, Willem, the RECs are transferred to the Vermont utility purchasing the energy in most cases (definitely in Washington Electric Co-op’s case) and the utility then sells the RECs, and that revenue replaces rate revenue the utility would othereise need to collect. In cases where the utility does not get the RECs as part of the deal, it reduces the cost the utility pays for the energy. So, all RECs sales out of state that I am aware of directly benefit Vermont ratepayers financially. The energy cannot then be claimed as renewable in Vermont, but the financially benefit certainly can.… Read more »
4 years 5 months ago
Avram, Vermonters subsidize environmentally-destructive, infrasound and low frequency noise, IFLN, emitting industrial wind energy (federal and state government subsidies, regulatory relief, etc.) on 2,500-ft high ridge lines that have been nearly untouched since a mile-thick ice layer melted about 9,000 years ago. The subsidized ridge line wind facilities are expensive (about $2,500/kW vs about $1,800-$2,000 in Kansas and about $4,200/kW offshore)) and the ridge line energy is expensive (10c/kWh subsidized, 15c/kWh unsubsidized vs NE annual average grid prices of about 5.5 c/kWh). This expensive wind energy, when rolled into the rate schedule, will cause rates to increased more than without… Read more »
Annette Smith
4 years 5 months ago

what Avram wrote sounds like gobbledigook to me. No renewable benefits, and the REC selling brings down the cost of the power to ratepayers, but they’re not getting renewable energy and grid power could be purchased cheaper. Vermonters get destroyed mountains, destroyed communities, and brown power.

Happily Off-Grid With Solar

Avram Patt
4 years 5 months ago
It’s only gobbldigook if one has a predetermined agenda. Vermont ratepayers benefit from having a renewable energy project within our borders, supplying new renewable energy to the New England grid that we are served by, that brings us power from other states in the region and Canada. We cannot count it as renewable for purposes of reporting the characteristics of our own supply. But it is renewable, and that is a good thing, and ratepayers are receiving the financial benefit that a developer would otherwise receive. If & when Vermont also has a renewable portfolio standard, we we will be… Read more »
4 years 5 months ago
Avram “It’s complicated, sure, but informed advocates should not profess wilfull ignorance from off-grid computers that connect to an internet full of large server farms heavily dependent on and responsible for significant growth on the very same grid that one is “off” of.” What is not complicated is that variable, intermittent wind energy is making it more and more difficult for grid operators to stabilize the grid, as in Germany with about 7% annual wind energy (maximum instantaneous about 3 x 7 = 21% during high wind speed periods). Germany used to have the most stable grid in the world.… Read more »
4 years 5 months ago
Annette, When I saw the Avram comment, I was hoping you would see it and comment. His gobbledigook thinking is endemic of the RE movement that is trying to sell the public their expensive, heavily-subsidized,, environmentally-damaging and health-damaging IWTs on 2,500 ft-high ridge lines and then rolling their expensive, low-quality, variable and intermittent, NO-DISPATCH-VALUE energy into the rate schedule; a cat in the bag on many levels, as I point out in my comment. Utilities go along with the state’s RE schemes to get rate increases (one hand washes the other) and generally do not care what the costs are… Read more »
Rob Roy Macgregor
4 years 5 months ago
My understanding is that the sale of RECs to out-of-state utilities helps those utilities meet the requirements for getting a certain percentage of their load from renewable sources, as required by various renewable portfolio standards in place in those states. It is designed to encourage the development of new renewable generation sources, though I’m aware that there are questions about the overall effectiveness of the programs. This is not the same as the various cap and trade programs designed to reduce C02 emissions, and RECs are not used in that way. Related to some extent, but not the same. As… Read more »
Kevin Jones
4 years 5 months ago

Annette Smith is correct. With sales of RECS, energy from VT SPEED and Standard Offer resources is likely to still be above market so these policies are not rational. Why buy expensive brown power (which results from sale of RECs)? Avram does not address this issue. He just says sale of RECs reduces total cost. If net cost of power is still above market and we can’t call it renewable or green then why subject ratepayers to the added cost? Other states have renewable portfolio standards that are real. SPEED program is expensive illusion.

Avram Patt
4 years 5 months ago
Response to Kevin Jones:Because Vermont ratepayers are openly, not surreptitiously being temporaily paid to host renewable projects here where currently known and available renewable resources exist, which helps add renewables to the suply mix of the whole New England grid that we in Vermont rely on. These projects are long term, predictably priced supply. It is disappointing to see Vermont experts who should know better offer us the alternative of long term dependence on short term fossil fuel market prices, natural gas chiefly, currently priced below the cost of actually drilling new wells, and further depressed by the recession and… Read more »
Kevin Jones
4 years 5 months ago
What Avram conveniently skips is the fact that the VT SPEED program subsidizes renewables that are largely being sold into th MA and CT RPS programs and thus are not a net addition to renewable energy supply and cannot legally be called renewable energy for Vermonters. Even utility executives outside VT describe the VT program as a sham. Attacking individuals motives does not change physics or the law and the Vermont program offers no net benefit to the climate, does not procure renewable energy for Vermonters, and raises customers rates. It is bad public policy. Attacking peoples motives or agendas… Read more »
Kevin Jones
4 years 5 months ago
As an additional correction, Vermonters are not being paid to host renewable projects. Vermonters are the one paying for them but since the Renewable credits are sold out of state there is no renewable energy sold to Vermont customers. In regard to my personal preference I support a strong regional RPS rather that the current illusory program. No short term fossil fuels for me. I have put my money where my beliefs are and my electric consumption is largely covered by the net metered solar panels on my barn. Having worked in the industry for 20+ years and served the… Read more »
john burton
4 years 4 months ago

thrivemovement.com

Ted Schaible
4 years 1 month ago
There should be no reason for these wind turbine projects to be popping up all over Vermont. At the same time, local as well as state politics, needs to respect the voice of the people within each Vermont community. The people of the community should always have the right to determine what goes up in their own towns, regardless of how much money is to be made or to it’s potential benefit. At the same time, the people of Vermont do not like unappropriate objects, such as wind turbine distracting their scenic views. I’m sure who’s ever grand idea such… Read more »
3 months 5 days ago
I find the following quote from the article disingenuous, since wind turbines are far more widely visible than hydroelectric dams, and make more noise and kill flying creatures: There’s a tendency of wind advocates to call it just “another change that people will get used to,” but it’s a radical change like nothing else we’ve seen. It reminds me of climate deniers who keep saying “the climate’s changed before, we can adapt.” Quote: “Proponents of wind projects in Vermont say much of the opposition likely comes from the fact that for many years Vermonters have not had to see where… Read more »
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