A Connecticut firm is considering building what would be Vermont’s largest wind farm on Grandpa’s Knob, a rocky outcrop about eight miles northwest of Rutland.
If the company goes ahead, the site could support 30 to 35 turbines generating up to 50 megawatts, a company official said.
A spokeswoman for Noble Environmental Power said Thursday the project was still very much in a preliminary phase – so preliminary that Castleton officials said the first they heard of it was when they were contacted by a reporter Wednesday.
“We’re not aware of any proposal,” Town Manager Jon Dodd said. “Advocacy groups have pointed to Grandpa’s Knob as a potential site for some time, but the town has not been approached.”
Grandpa’s Knob is the former site of the country’s first large-scale wind turbine to generate power and feed it into the electric utility grid. The Smith-Putnam turbine began operating in 1941, but was soon shut down due to a faulty bearing. The company was unable to replace the part until 1945 because of wartime shortages. The turbine restarted that year, but the steel blade fell off a short time later.
The tower was later taken down and only the foundation remains. A plaque placed there in 2005 commemorates the turbine.
The company has been looking at sites in Rutland, Bennington and Windsor counties for several months, according to spokeswoman Anna Giovinetto. She said the company did an opinion survey during the summer that found people in the area would be receptive to the project.
“It’s one of the places we’re considering,” Giovinetto said of Grandpa’s Knob. “I don’t think there are any others we’re sure enough about that we’re ready to name, but the whole region has potential.”
Giovinetto said the site’s history is part of its appeal, and the company has a better picture of the “wind resource” available there than anywhere else.
Right now, though, Giovinetto said the company is talking to landowners and using computer models to gauge the site’s potential, extrapolating from data on other locations in the area.
“We’re in the very preliminary stages,” she said. “It’s a long process. It takes a long time to assess in terms of compatibility and public acceptance. That can take a couple years. “¦ Like any development project, it’s a long, slow process and you have to do everything in the correct order.”
The first community organization Giovinetto said the company approached was the Rutland Economic Development Corp. Executive Director JoAnn Hollis said the company made a presentation on its search for sites about three weeks ago.
“We’re happy to entertain the idea,” Hollis said. “It’s not at the point where they need any help from us. It’ll be interesting to see how it progresses.”
When the time comes, Hollis said, she expects REDC will be able to help the company through the permitting process.
The next likely step – and the first one for which the company will need a permit – is putting up a meteorological tower at the site to gather hard data.
“I think we’re a few months away from that,” Giovinetto said. “Part of that will be reaching out to some of the town heads.”
Giovinetto said the company expects to begin construction in the spring on four wind farms in New York State and one in Michigan, and in the fall on another two in New York.
For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Energy Web site at www.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/windpoweringamerica/ne history grandpa.asp
Contact Gordon Dritschilo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gordon Dritschilo
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