UPC Vermont Wind is scaling back the number of wind turbines proposed for mountaintops in Sheffield and Sutton in response to public and state agency concerns, according to testimony filed with the Vermont Public Service Board today.
The new plan calls for 16 2.5-megawatt turbines, completely eliminating the array on Hardscrabble Mountain and the need to access the project through the King George School property. The original project called for 26 turbines.
The new layout positions 14 turbines in Sheffield and only two in Sutton. At 420 feet to the vertical tip of the rotor, the 2.5-megawatt turbines are slightly taller overall.
The reduced size means a peak output of 40 megawatts instead of the original 52 megawatts, but can still provide power to more than 15,000 homes and UPC plans to sell that power in Vermont.
“We took the comments of the public and the state very seriously,” said Sheffield Wind project manager Matt Kearns. “We’ve met with a variety of citizens and state officials and listened carefully to what everyone had to say. Our design and permitting team spent the summer addressing the concerns that had been voiced. While we were confident that our original plan was a good one, we believe that these changes address the issues that were raised by vocal project opponents, local landowners, and state agencies.”
Kearns said the smaller project would still generate enough electricity to power all of Caledonia County. “What we have here is truly a Vermont scale wind farm,” He added.
The changes didn’t assuage one critic’s concerns.
“I don’t care if it’s 26, 16, 10 or one,” said Karen Fitzhugh, head of the King George School, a private school near the proposed windfarm. “We can’t approve of any industrial wind turbines near the school. We have issues with low frequency emissioins that can exacerbate symptoms of mental illness and vibrations that can disrupt sleep. My problems are not mitigated at all.”
Still, developers believe the new siting will improve its chances of gaining approval.
Gov. Jim Douglas’ administration is opposing the project, saying it is proposing too many turbines and is intrusive on the landscape.
In its filing, the developer said many of the elevations have been adjusted to diminish the visibility as well. The project will no longer be visible from Danville, Kirby, St. Johnsbury or Walden.
Further clarification on a host of environmental, economic, and electrical issues has also been presented including sound levels, stormwater, wildlife, plants, taxes and jobs . Fewer new roads will be built, and disturbance of wetlands and bear habitat has been substantially curtailed.
The reduced number of turbines also means fewer turbines will be lit at night. UPC has proposed 8 red blinking lights instead of the original 15 originally planned.
Complete testimony will be posted at www.sheffieldwind.com.
Posted September 25, 2006
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