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Big wind, small state  

We cannot lose sight of Vermont's distinctive place in the world with its open spaces and gorgeous vistas. It is up to us to continue the legacy. Real jobs, real lives depend on it.

Vermont’s Public Service Board begins technical hearings Monday into a
proposal to build four commercial wind turbines on one of the highest
mountains in the Northeast Kingdom.

People who care about their ridgelines and the character and landscape
of Vermont should pay close attention to these hearings. The outcome
could open the door to a dramatically changed state. The natural beauty
and solitude of Vermont’s wildest, highest places could be replaced by
rows of industrial wind turbines standing more than 30 stories high and
lighted like mountaintop runways.

The hearings, scheduled for Monday to Friday, involve a proposal by
Mathew Rubin of East Haven Windfarm to build four 330-foot-tall wind
towers as a “demonstration project” on the top of East Mountain in the
middle of the protected Champion Lands.

Waiting in the wings are other wind energy developers from California,
Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont who will be watching how East Haven
fares with state regulators. They are at various stages of prospecting
and preparing their own wind projects, with the East Haven petition the
only one before the Public Service Board.

Combined, the developers have stated an interest in building at least
100 giant wind turbines on mountain ridges in Sheffield, Lowell,
Manchester, Londonderry, Searsburg and Readsboro. Wind proponents such
as the Vermont Public Interest Research Group would like to see at least
200 wind turbines on Vermont’s mountains, opening the ridges to these
big boxes of the environment.

If approved, East Haven Windfarm would be Vermont’s first commercial
wind power project since the Searsburg facility was built in 1997 near
Bennington. What is being proposed for the state’s ridgelines now is far
different from the smaller, unlighted and more discreetly sited turbines
at Searsburg. Vermont is faced with a new generation of monoliths that
would stand prominently on peaks such as the 3,400-foot East Mountain,
the highest summit east of Jay Peak.

On the eve of this precedent-setting hearing, Vermonters should
challenge assumptions about wind power.

Bigger is not always better. Rather than have huge wind turbines foisted
on our ridgelines, we should insist that wind developers fit into our
environment. Big wind companies, such as General Electric, should be
pressed to develop a less intrusive product.

If the market demands it, technology adapts. Consider how the old line
of garish satellite dishes was replaced by more reasonable, plate-sized
models. Consumers didn’t want NORAD installations on their front yards,
so the industry had to come up with a new idea.

We must also challenge wind power advocates to not simply parrot the
developers’ claims as they march forward with their vision of the new
green Vermont. Wind developer Mathew Rubin has been a long-standing
member of the leading advocate of wind power in the state, Vermont Pubic
Interest Research Group.

Urge this group to work within the scale of the state. Conservation and
renewable sources of energy, such as solar, Vermont’s own “cow power,”
and smaller wind turbines at schools, homes and businesses should be in
the mix as the state deals with its energy future. Large wind generation
facilities on ridgelines would produce more power, but they would damage
the environment in the name of the environment. They don’t make sense
for Vermont.

We ought to challenge Gov. Jim Douglas and legislators to take control
of the issue and not allow the state to roll over and accept wind
turbine projects willy nilly on mountaintops that are being bought up by
private developers. Rubin’s project is on private land in the middle of
the Champion Lands, which Vermont taxpayers helped buy in 1998. Ask the
governor how a commercial wind facility fits in with these lands that
were protected as a wild refuge.

This is the state that rejected billboards on roadsides, defeated the
Green Mountain Parkway and put tough environmental regulations in place
with Act 250. We cannot lose sight of Vermont’s distinctive place in the
world with its open spaces and gorgeous vistas. It is up to us to
continue the legacy. Real jobs, real lives depend on it.

Down in the communities below Rubin’s proposed utility project, wind
power has divided people. There are those who welcome the promised perks
such as $70,000 in property taxes in tiny East Haven and a contract with
the local Lyndonville Electric Department to provide a below-market
price for power.

There are others, notably members of the Kingdom Commons Group, who have
spent significant time and money fighting what they see as an invasion
of their home. They are people who despair over the wind developers’
plans for their mountains.

Rubin isn’t stopping at four turbines. Earlier this month, he was making
his case to the Public Service Board for more wind tower projects on
three neighboring mountains near East Haven. Eventually, the people in
this corner of the Northeast Kingdom could be surrounded by dozens of
wind towers, spinning in the day and flashing with strobe lights at night.

Opposition to giant wind towers is about aesthetics and scale and
protection of the quiet places for man and wildlife. It is about a rare
state where, in special spots, nature still has the upper hand over the
man-made.

Speak up now about wind turbines on our ridgelines.

Wind hearings

A hearing officer of the Public Service Board, Kurt Janson, will hold
technical hearings into East Haven Windfarm’s certificate of public good
Monday through Friday starting at 9:30 a.m. every day at the Public
Service Board Hearing Room, Third Floor, Chittenden Bank Building, 112
State Street, Montpelier.

What’s your opinion?

Editorial Staff

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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