Chris McKay: Sound regulations restricting wind power - VTDigger

Chris McKay: Sound regulations restricting wind power

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Chris McKay, a resident of Waterbury who has worked at Northern Power Systems in Barre for over 16 years.

I‘m proud to say that I work at Northern Power Systems where we design and build wind turbines right here in Barre. There are dozens of people down in the factory floor building wind turbines and getting them ready to ship around the U.S. and the world. We work to make a living and make a difference.

Every Vermonter deserves to be happy, healthy and have a well-paying job, and that is what wind energy allows. In a day and age when political pundits and candidates alike bemoan the days of well-paying trade and manufacturing jobs, they certainly do a lot to eliminate them. That’s what the most recent rules by the Public Service Board will do: kill wind in Vermont. In my view, these rules aren’t really about sound; it’s really about trying to stop wind. Legislators must see that unreasonable sound levels and arbitrary setback restrictions in the proposed rule will prevent the use of wind technology in our state.

Wind energy is a Vermont trade. In Vermont, Northern Power Systems is just one of the four local businesses in wind manufacturing. There are just as many trade jobs in wind that are not manufacturing related in this state. We’ve been in business for 40 years; another well-known Vermont company working in wind, NRG Systems, has been here for 35 years.

Vermont needs to take a more balanced approach to respecting our citizens while allowing wind to keep working here in Vermont.


Over the past four decades, wind has been able to work and operate in peace. It has only been in the last few years that as the price per unit of wind energy outcompetes fossil fuels, some opposition has grown. This is not a coincidence, and indeed peer reviewed research shows a greater reception to wind technology and fewer complaints after construction when communities are not primed with false narratives about wind before projects are installed.

There have been a lot of comments about Europe in the public debate around wind sound. My company has turbines in England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere in Europe, and you know the decibel number is only part of those rules. If you go to Germany and Denmark, there are thousands of wind turbines. There’s more subtlety to regulations than the opposition would lead you to believe, and much of that subtlety enables wind to work in those countries. I can tell you if this rule that’s being proposed was the status quo in those countries, we would not have been able to provide the technology to generate pollution-free energy.

Vermont needs to take a more balanced approach to respecting our citizens while allowing wind to keep working here in Vermont. Northern Power Systems a small business, and I wouldn’t want to see any other small business prevented from making a living by giving rules that were outliers and very different regarding what they can do compared to everybody else.

Vermont needs wind energy to stabilize and lower electricity costs, and keep our state competitive for jobs and local manufacturing to keep our economy growing. It is now time for the Legislature to object to the board’s rule as it is clear that the full economic implications were not considered. Furthermore, our state made a commitment to achieve energy independence, and create a better Vermont for generations to come by generating 90 percent of our energy renewably. Shorting future generations of Vermonters a future with sovereignty over their own, homegrown, clean energy sources has never been the intention of the Vermont Legislature, and these rules are out of touch with reality.

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