A large energy company formally asked state regulators to approve a wind project in Searsburg and Readsboro on Monday.
If PPM Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Scottish Power, is successful, its Deerfield project would be built next to the state’s only operating wind farm, the 11-turbine Searsburg project built by Green Mountain Power in 1997.
At between 15 and 24 turbines and having a capacity as high as 45 megawatts, the proposed Deerfield project would be the larger of the two independently owned and operated projects. Searsburg has a capacity of about 6 megawatts.
The new project could cost as much as $90 million and would be on about 80 acres of Green Mountain National Forest land on both sides of Route 8.
Deerfield Wind, owned by PPM, applied to the U.S. Forest Service in November 2004 for authorization to use federal lands for the project.
The service did an initial review of the project and found it met the criteria, but it is now fully reviewing the application, according to the petition for a certificate of public good filed with the Vermont Public Service Board late Monday afternoon.
The turbines which would be used if the project was approved as requested would be about 410 feet high including rotors, while the towers that support them would be about 260 feet high.
About five miles of roads would have to be built to reach the project and strips of land would be cleared to make way for the turbines. Construction is expected to take about nine months after the project is approved.
Although there has been strenuous debate over the aesthetic risks of wind turbines on the state’s ridgelines versus the benefits of renewable power, the Searsburg project seems to have enjoyed a better relationship with its neighbors than some of the proposed projects.
In an informal vote in March, Readsboro residents overwhelmingly supported the proposed project.
Part of the appeal of the project is economics. The wind farm would require between three and five employees after construction and generate tax revenue for the towns the turbines sit in.
“PPM always works very hard to earn the trust and respect of any community where we do business,” spokeswoman Anita Marks said Monday. “We want to be a good neighbor and a long-term member of the community.”
The company has about 2,000 megawatts of power projects operating or under construction around the country, she said.
The development of wind power replaces electricity from other sources that create more pollution, and can benefit the power grid, according to the Deerfield application.
The company’s application to the board also pledges to be a good neighbor when it gets ready to leave. Although the project is expected to operate for 30 years, the company will establish a decommissioning fund to support removal of the equipment, according to the application.
Much of the power from the Deerfield project would be sold on the New England market, according to the company’s plan. Given inconsistency of the wind and other factors, the project would likely produce about 120,000 megawatt hours of electricity, or enough to supply power to more than 14,000 homes.
A letter of intent with Green Mountain Power would allow that utility to buy up to half of the output of the Deerfield project.
“Other Vermont utilities have also expressed an interest in acquiring a portion of the output from Deerfield Wind, and discussions with these and other prospective purchasers continue,” according to the company’s application.
By Louis Porter
Vermont Press Bureau
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