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Turbine Turmoil: The Political Storm  

wcax.com

The Green Mountains once held great hope for wind developers.

Channel 3 Reporter Kristin Carlson asked, ” Can you in your minds eye picture them here?”

Wind developer Matt Rubin responded, “I certainly can. I certainly can.”

On top of East Haven Mountain, Matt Rubin wanted to build four, 330 foot tall turbines.

“It seemed that if wind power was possible anywhere it would be possible here,” said Rubin.

The wind project on the old rusted out air force base was to be a test-site for turbines on Vermont’s ridge lines.

This is one of the windiest spots in the state.”

But strong winds of opposition also blew across this Mountaintop.

After touring the site this summer, State regulators shot down the project. The Public Service Board said in-depth studies needed to be done to make sure the turbines would not harm bats and migratory birds. Rubin maintains the studies were not necessary because of a growing body of evidence from other wind turbines across the country.

“There are only four turbines here and a house cat would kill more birds,” explained Rubin.

It’s not just East Haven. Other wind developers have had a difficult time getting traction for Green Energy in the Green Mountains.

Matt Kearns works for UPC wind, “Our competition has in many ways left Vermont because of the rigorous permitting process because of the high barriers to market entry.”

UPC Wind wants to build 26 turbines in the Northeast Kingdom on Hardscrabble Mountain. They have the only project currently in the permitting process and already a warning light. The Public Service Department says the turbines are inconsistent with the regional plan for the area. They advise the Public Service Board who makes the final decision.

Asked Kristin Carlson, “If the Sutton/Sheffield project gets shot down do you think that spells the end of wind in Vermont?”

Matt Kearns responded, “I mean it’s certainly going to send a negative signal.”

At one time, six wind projects across the state were in the works. Developers were looking at Vermont because it is a mostly untapped resource here and they estimate the state could get 10-20% of its energy from wind. Supporters also say as power demands increase across the country, wind is an clean and safe alternative to coal and nuclear power plants.

John Zimmerman is a wind consultant: “I think because of that match and the need for power you’re feeling a lot of pressure for the installation of wind power facilities.”

The state does have one wind farm in Southern Vermont. Built ten years ago, most residents have accepted the view, but the new turbines being proposed would be nearly twice as tall.

“I think Vermont’s in the situation where it’s going to take baby steps and get one done. Let people come see it and when I say one, we count Searsburg but at the same time these are bigger,” said Kearns.

And developers say not only has the size of turbines changed since Searsburg, so too has the political climate.

Standing on top of East Haven Mountain Matt Rubin said, “I don’t think wind has a future in Vermont because the administration does not want it to happen.”

When Kristin Carlson asked Governor Douglas if he thought his clear opposition to large scale wind farms has had any sway at all over state regulators, the Governor responded, “Well I don’t know the answer to that. I’m certainly going to say what I think.”

Governor Douglas is staunchly opposed to large scale wind projects, saying the tradeoff for the power they could provide the state is not worth compromising the view.

Douglas instead supports small scale turbines, at about 100 feet tall they have less of a visible impact. Already they’re helping power schools, businesses and homes. But wind analysts say they could never provide a big piece of the energy picture. To equal the power produced from one industrial turbine, estimations are that it would take well over 3000 of the backyard ones.

Kristin Carlson; “Do you think there is some hypocrisy that Vermont is known as a Green State and you as the Governor of that green state are against this so called green energy?”

Governor Douglas: “Well I support renewable but I think we have to weigh all the pros and cons and on balance I think it is more of an intrusion then we want. The Green Mountain State would have to be renamed the Green Mountains with white Industrial Turbines state.”

Views of Vermont, opponents hope will always stay the same. As supporters like Matt Rubin walk away from wind for now.

“We don’t intend to do anything further, other than own our property and pay our taxes and see what future holds.”

One issue with East Haven the Governor is quick to point out – is that he actually did support building the four turbines there.

Douglas says he was in favor of the project because the ridge lines were already industrialized and cleared.

Kristin Carlson Channel 3 News.

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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