October 17, 2005

Where is wind leading the state?

With industrial wind developments being proposed for ridgelines from the
Northeast Kingdom to Glebe Mountain near Londonderry to the Green
Mountain National Forest, Vermont seems to be fumbling along without
clear guideposts.

Disputes over the future of the state’s defining mountain ridges are
being left to small communities and big wind developers. Petitions and
protest signs on one side; wind measurement towers on the other.
Eventually, the two sides end up in technical hearings at the Public
Service Board.

Before hearings into wind projects get rolling with lawyers hired and
expert witnesses called, Vermont needs to have some guiding principles.
Sticking wind utility plants on top of our mountains would be a
fundamental change for this state.

The Public Service Board recently created draft rules to steer its
hearings, based on recommendations from last year’s Commission on Wind
Energy Regulatory Policy. They are overdue and bring some clarity, but
they are about procedure – not policy.

Beyond the technical criteria of bringing a proposed wind development to
the board, there must be leadership on the overall issue of wind
generation in this state so that industrialization of the ridgelines
doesn’t just happen to Vermont – and wind turbines, almost 400 feet
tall, don’t just start appearing piecemeal on our mountains.

Gov. Jim Douglas made a significant step toward leadership on wind power
by sending out a message earlier this month that he supports smaller,
“Vermont scale” wind projects and he prefers a go-slow approach to
large-scale developments. The governor should seize this issue.

Like Douglas, many Vermonters understand the merits of pursuing
renewable energy but they are reluctant to sign on to commercial wind
turbines on ridgelines. What does a 398-foot wind turbine look like? How
about up to 35 of them strung out over parallel ridges, as UPC Wind
Management, LLC of Newton, Mass., has proposed for Sutton and Sheffield
in the Northeast Kingdom? Commercial wind turbines are, as the governor
said, “large.”

“It’s important that people realize the scope of them, the number and
the size,” Douglas said. “We need to slow down. This is a very important

At least one environmental group, the Vermont Natural Resources Council,
has offered a baseline for discussion about large-scale wind energy that
seems well-anchored in the state’s strong environmental values.

Among its recommendations, the council urges against developing wind
energy on sites that “have a low level of human disturbance and
development, that do not have existing public roads or infrastructure,
or that do not have intensive development.”

It warns against placing wind turbines on “ridgelines with steep slopes,
uneven topography, or large bedrock outcrops”; on “inventoried roadless
areas on National Forest;” in “natural areas, fragile areas or
wilderness areas;” in “areas that currently receive a high level of
backcountry use, especially within the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail
corridors;” and areas that are “designated as scenic corridors or
ridgeline protection areas.”

Whether you agree or disagree with the Vermont Natural Resources
Council, at least it has offered some thoughtful ideas that deserve more
discussion. The council is tapping into the core of this state, which is
what the Douglas administration should be doing. The governor has thrown
up the caution sign on large-scale wind development. Now he and the
Legislature ought to take the initiative and guide the state on this
critical issue. Find out more For the Vermont Natural Resources
Council’s position paper on wind energy, go to

Editorial Staff

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2005/10/17/419/