Developers of a proposed wind farm in Sheffield and Sutton scaled back their plans from 26 towers to 16 Monday, but local opponents said the project remains too large-scale for its rural Northeast Kingdom setting.
“We did the cost-benefit analysis and decided it made sense to listen to the feedback we were getting from the state and local landowners,” said Matthew Kearns, director of development for UPC Vermont Wind.
Ten towers would be dropped from the wind farm, but the remaining ones would have longer blades – increasing the overall height of each turbine by 21 feet, to 420 feet. Each turbine would generate more electricity, but the wind farm’s total output would drop nearly 25 percent, from 52 megawatts to 40.
“It’s like rearranging the furniture on the Titanic,” scoffed Greg Bryant of Sheffield, a spokesman for Ridge Protectors, an opposition group that claims 250 to 300 members. “You can’t hide an elephant behind a bush and you can’t hide a 420-foot tower on top of a mountain.”
Although Sheffield voters backed the wind farm, Sutton voters decisively opposed the project at March town meeting. In August, the state Department of Public Service declined to support the development, saying it was out of character with its setting.
In particular, the department criticized the project’s potential visual impact on visitors to Crystal Lake State Park and on the King George School, a private school for troubled teens in Sutton. The school’s leaders said the turning turbines would disturb students; they said the school might close if the project were built.
Kearns said he believes the changes offered Monday respond to local concerns.
Four of the six turbines in Sutton would be dropped. All the turbines on Hardscrabble Mountain, closest to the King George School, would be eliminated.
“There is far less visibility,” he said. Fewer turbines will be visible from the beach at Crystal Lake and only the tops of the spinning blades, at most, would be seen from the King George School, he predicted.
At the Department of Public Service, Director of Energy Efficiency Rob Ide declined to comment on the changes, saying he had not received the formal proposal.
Karen Fitzhugh, head of school at the King George School, said the school remains opposed because noise and vibrations from the remaining turbines could disturb students.
At Ridge Protectors, Bryant did not share Kearns’ enthusiasm.
“It’s standard, Wind 101 – you drop the number and increase the size. The impact on us is the same or worse,” he said.
UPC Wind’s plans must be approved by the state Public Service Board, which is expected to open hearings in December, Kearns said.
By Candace Page
Free Press Staff Writer
Contact Candace Page at 660-1865 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
On the Web Sheffield Wind: www.sheffieldwind.com
Ridge Protectors: www.ridgeprotectors.org
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