SHEFFIELD – Officials behind a major wind project proposed here unveiled more details of their plans Thursday evening, meeting with the planning commission as required by the state law that regulates energy projects. Massachusetts-based UPC Wind Management presented the update, bringing in its president, power sales director, project manager, lawyer, publicist and environmental consultant. They were joined by Avram Patt, general manager of East Montpelier-based Washington Electric Co-op.
The utility scale windfarm proposes to generate 52 megawatts of electricity, installing 26, 398 1/2-foot tall turbines on mountain ridges in Sheffield and Sutton, UPC officials said. WEC, a leader in developing alternative energy sources, has partnered with UPC and plans to purchase some of the power generated for use by its 10,000 Central Vermont customers.
"This starts formal process on the state level," said Paul Gaynor, who introduced himself as the president of UPC. "We have been working on this project for many years. We also have a long way to go (and) we want to convey how much time and effort we’ve put into this project."
After sinking $1.2 million into the test towers and studies, company representatives said the project if complete would produce an average of 145,000 kilowatts each year – enough to power about 20,000 homes.
If approved by the Public Service Board, the 26-unit project would take about six to nine months to build, employing about 50 to 75 local workers. Once built, about three to five permanent jobs would be created, Gaynor said.
Gaynor said it was impossible to estimate how much money the town would get in taxes each year, but estimated it would be in the $150,000 to $350,000 range. UPC has 20 regular employees, with U.S. offices in Maine, New York, San Diego, Toronto and Maui, Hawaii, where UPC’s first U.S. wind project is under construction on state-owned virgin mountain tops, Gaynor said.
David Cowens, an environmental impact consultant hired by UPC, said the project would not pose a threat to the natural world. He also said he felt the project would not create a negative visual impact. Hunting, snowmobiling, hiking and berry picking would still be permitted and wildlife would acclimate to the turbines, Gaynor said. After the presentation, about 40 audience members were given the chance to comment, and all, except Planning Commissioner John Simons, questioned or spoke against the project.
Greg Bryant, a farmer and small businessman said he hopes that when the public votes whether to support or oppose the project on December 1, UPC will heed their opinion. The town is holding an advisory vote to gauge sentiment for and against the project. "My grandfather was a farmer and he said, ‘chances when the chickens are this loud there is a fox in the henhouse,’ you say you are going to take care of us. If the town votes against this, we hope you take care of us (and go away)," Bryant said.
Gaynor responded that he was told it is a nonbinding vote and the company would decide for themselves whether or not to heed voters’ opinion.
The company plans to file for a certificate of public good with the Public Service Board under Section 248 by the end of December or January, Gaynor said. The company this week moved into new offices at 107 Eastern Ave., known in St. Johnsbury as Windhorse Commons. Officials said they may be reached at 748-8395.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding