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Vermonters take sides on Searsburg facility  

A project significantly larger than the Redington Wind Farm that is now being considered in Vermont is being met with mixed feelings from area community members.

Deerfield Wind LLC wants to extend the Searsburg wind facility, which exists on private land, onto about 80 acres of national forestland. The expansion, to include another 20 to 30 more wind turbines along two ridge lines, would reach an elevation of 3,200 feet. About four miles of new access roads are planned, along with a maintenance building and new substation.

The Searsburg project has 11 towers, which have been in place for nine years. They are 198 feet tall from the base to the tip of the blade and have a rotor diameter of 132 feet. The new towers will be closer to 400 feet tall, each witXh a rotor diameter of 266 feet – approximately double the existing towers.

Andy Schindel, a retired lawyer serving on the Design Review Board in Wilmington, Vt., says he likes the way the turbines look now and does not believe he would be opposed to an expansion.

“To me they’re fine,” he said. “The new ones will be taller, with aircraft warning lights, but all in all, I would rather wind power be used than the alternatives.”

Adam Grinold, owner of the White House Inn in Wilmington, is also happy with the wind facility in place but is opposed to an expansion.

“In the middle of the night, it will be hard to explain to guests why the mountaintop is lit up like a runway,” Grinold said.

Wilmington Real Estate agent Mickie Mill is also opposed to an expansion.

“The one that is there now, I don’t find objectionable because they are under 200 feet,” she said. “The new ones will be 400 feet tall. They’ll have huge flashing red lights going 24 hours a day, and they’ll have to build an enormous road to get up there.”

“It’s entirely different from the little cluster we have now because of the way the ridge line looms over our valley,” Mill added. “They will be highly visible, especially to anyone with a view. That is what they will be looking at. It will greatly affect property values, and will make it hard to sell property.”

Martha Staskus, vice president of Vermont Environmental Research Associates, is working as a consultant with Deerfield Wind LLC. She said the Federal Aviation Administration has greatly reduced its requirements for lighting on wind towers, which used to include strobe lights for towers over 200 feet, and lighting on every tower.

Another concern for both sides is wildlife.

“Because the turbines are so big and the blades are so large, they will be in the migratory path of birds,” Mill said.

Songbird and raptor surveys were done before and after the Searsburg turbines were put in place, Staskus said. Radar on top of the towers recorded anything that flew over them and showed that birds migrate at about 500 feet above land, she added.

The American Bird Conservancy has created a policy on birds and wind power, which states that it supports the development of renewable energy, including wind power, as long as projects evaluate the potential risk to wildlife.

Deerfield Wind and VERA are working with Woodlot Alternatives Inc., a Topsham environmental consulting firm, to study birds, wildlife and habitat. Their findings are also being reviewed by West Inc., an environmental firm in Wyoming. And because the project is being proposed for national forestland, biologists with the U.S. Forest Service are also involved.

For more on both sides of the wind farm issue in Vermont, visit www.vermonterswithvision.org and VERA’s Web site, www.northeastwind.com.

By Jami Badershall,Staff Writer

Sun Journal

9 July 2006

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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