A recent filing to state regulators from the Vermont Department of Public Service on a proposed wind power project points to the lack of consistency and clarity in dealing with industrial wind development in this state.
Robert Ide, the department’s energy efficiency director, says in the filing to the Public Service Board that UPC Vermont Wind’s proposed wind turbines should be allowed in Sheffield – but not in neighboring Sutton.
Sheffield residents have voted in favor of the project. Sutton has opposed it. Ide said limiting the towers to Sheffield would respect the decision-making process of each town.
In the summer, Ide – on behalf of the department – opposed UPC’s proposal to build 26 wind turbines, 398 feet tall on mountain ridges in Sheffield and Sutton. The department was concerned about the project clashing with the regional plan of the Northeast Kingdom, which calls for preservation of the unique character of the area. Aesthetics, public enjoyment and the impact on a Sutton private school were also among the department’s reasons for dissent.
UPC then scaled back its plan from 26 towers to 16, in particular trying to avoid the King George School area in Sutton, but the company increased the height of the turbines to 420 feet. The citizens’ group, Ridge Protectors, which includes residents of Sheffield, Sutton and other neighboring communities, remains strongly opposed. “It’s standard Wind 101 – you drop the number and increase the size,” Greg Bryant of Ridge Protectors told the Free Press. “The impact on us is the same or worse.”
Ide and the department don’t see it that way now. Just remove the two remaining turbines proposed for Sutton and proceed with the others in Sheffield, they say.
What the department’s new approach fails to recognize is that UPC’s wind towers – at 420 feet tall on top of ridgelines in Sheffield – will be the most prominent feature on the ridgelines for miles around for residents and visitors of numerous locations, not just Sheffield and Sutton. The compromise might show respect for the decision-making process, but it fails to respect the real impact of these industrial giants on Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
We need leadership and clarity on this divisive issue. Before we’re at the stage where wind companies are seeking approval from the Public Service Board to build their individual projects, the state needs an overall energy plan, a vision. The state should follow up on its promise of a public engagement process on energy to educate and inform Vermonters about energy choices and tradeoffs. There is no single solution.
And while there is room for wind generation on a Vermont scale, as Gov. Jim Douglas proposes, industrial wind turbines on our ridgelines are not a viable option. The destruction of our mountain ridges – the last of our wild places – is too great a cost for too little energy.
As UPC takes its case to the Public Service Board for approval early next year, pay attention, Vermonters. This is a big project with the potential of forever changing the Northeast Kingdom, and Vermont.
It’s not just Sheffield that will be affected.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding