September 25, 2006

Winds of Change

“We’re struggling for that vision of Vermont scale and we think we’ve come as close as we can at this point,” said Matt Kearns with UPC Wind.

After testing the wind and will of Vermont, UPC Wind is scaling back its turbine project.

Instead of 26, they’re now proposing to build 16.

UPC Wind also moved turbines to address residents concerns. Hardscrabble Mountain is not part of the project now and instead the turbines will be on Norris, Libby and Granby Mountains. Before the nearest home to a turbine would 1/4 mile that distance has been doubled to 1/2 a mile.

Said Kearns, “That puts the turbines well away from King George school, issues that had come up with landowners on Hardscrabble Mountain, so it’s a net improvement all the way around.”

Although scaling back – UPC Wind is asking the state for permission to build taller turbines that have greater energy production potential, to make up for the fact that there will be fewer of them. The new turbines would measure 420 feet tall.

The downside for Vermont is that there is less power, less green power, we went from 52 megawatts to 40 megawatts which is a substantial reduction but it is still enough power for 15,000 homes,” explained Kearns.

“We’re still adamantly opposed to the project and we are going to fight it until the end,” said Bob Michaud with the Sutton Planning Board.

Many opponents were unswayed by the proposed changes. They think the turbines at any number will be a blight on the landscape.

“We’re still impacted it doesn’t make any difference what the numbers are,” said Michaud, “they are right on our border we’ll have to live with them if they are there and moving them around doesn’t change anything.”

Rob Pforzheimer lives in Sutton, “From 400 to 420 feet is another 20 feet of awful. We don’t want them anywhere near us, it’s not worth it. They are a trendy investment scheme that is going to make profits for UPC.”

“We’ve sized the project to the kind of appetite that we think is acceptable socially and acceptable from a power production perspective,” said Kearns, “We are trying to find that balance and we think we’ve done that and we think it is a Vermont scale project.

Whether this project gets approval is up to the Public Service Board. A decision is expected sometime in April.

And many wind developers are waiting to see what happens because right now this is the only wind project before state regulators.

Kristin Carlson – Channel 3 News

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