Three Public Service Board members and about 30 others drove along hilly, narrow dirt roads to view the Sheffield Wind Farm site Friday.
Representatives from the Department of Public Service, Washington Electric Coop, UPC Wind and other interested parties met at the Wheelock Town Hall Friday morning for a multi stop site visit to areas thought to be impacted by the proposed wind utility. UPC’s proposed wind energy plant as it was revised last month calls for 14 wind turbines in Sheffield and two in Sutton on Norris Mountain, Granby Mountain and Libby Hill, down from 26 turbines as originally proposed.
The first stop was a turnoff near an overgrown logging road where the Vermont Electric Cooperative’s power line intersects New Duck Pond Road, a curvy, gravel, class III road running from Sheffield to Barton parallel to Interstate Route 91. Duck Pond Road is the proposed route on which UPC Wind would transport several of the wind turbines. The road would need to be graded, widened at points, and some curves would need to be “softened” to accommodate turbine and construction crane equipment, and turbine blades measuring 153 feet would have to clear corners along the road, UPC spokesmen said.
Once parts arrived atop Norris Mountain, Granby Mountain and Libby Hill, a 90- to 100-meter construction crane would be used to put it together, said David Cowan, environmental engineer for UPC.
“UPC is not proposing to restrict access at this time,” said Andrew Raubvogel, an attorney for UPC, addressing concerns from Ellen Gray, a Sutton resident and wind opponent. The area targeted for the facility has already been logged for years, so trails and skid roads already exist, Cowan said. The nearest residence to a turbine would be a little over a half-mile away, he said.
The group also stopped in Barton at the Crystal Lake State Park. All 16 of the 420-foot-tall wind turbines on the ridgeline 5.7 miles away would be visible from the park’s beach. A wind-measuring tower rising nearly 100 feet above the tree line can be seen there now.
Several people expressed disappointment that UPC did not have balloon simulations to show how tall and from where turbines could be seen, but Raubvogel said UPC thought it would “be prudent” not to fly the balloons without permission from the board, which was not required. Raubvogel said the company did not want to remove the necessary trees or take other steps to launch what he said were dirigibles rather than balloons and would have required a vast area of cleared land.
Some wind opponents expressed concern over road access, wetlands, aesthetics and other issues.
Another site visit is planned for November.
By Carla Occaso Times Argus Staff
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