With federal review of a plan to build 16 to 24 wind power turbines on Green Mountain National Forest land still in its early stages, Vermont regulators are about to begin their own study of it.
Deerfield Wind LLC hopes to build some of the turbines on the same ridge line that already hosts Green Mountain Power Corp.’s Searsburg wind project on private land next to the National Forest. Other Deerfield turbines would be on the other west side of Vermont Route 8.
Deerfield Wind, named for the river that rises in the southern Green Mountains and flows into the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, estimates that its project would have a capacity of 45 megawatts, enough to serve about 15,000 Vermont homes.
The project would be the first wind power installation in the country on National Forest land, said Bob Bayer, coordinator for the project in the National Forest Service’s Manchester office.
Other wind power plans, including one on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan, are being eyed for National Forest land, but none has yet been formally proposed, Bayer said.
“People are exploring opportunities out west, in some of the National Forest land in the Sierra Nevadas, too,” he said.
Bayer said the Forest Service is likely at least a year away from issuing a draft environmental impact statement on the proposal. A 45-day public comment period would follow issuance of the draft, with a final decision from the Forest Service coming later, he said.
Bayer said he expected issues to be raised in hearings on the Deerfield Wind project would include its aesthetic impacts, possible disturbances to bear habitat and its effects on bats and birds.
Meanwhile, the Vermont Public Service Board has scheduled a pre-hearing conference for Friday as it kicks off its own process to determine whether the project would be a good one for Vermont electric ratepayers.
Deerfield Wind is owned by PPM Energy, Inc. of Portland, Ore., which in turn is owned Scottish Power, a utility serving parts of the United Kingdom and United States.
In its application last month to the Public Service Board for a state certificate of public good, Deerfield said wind power is a good hedge against the fluctuating prices of other forms of energy.
“Rising and volatile gas prices will make wind energy more valuable because higher average gas prices raise wholesale electricity costs, increasing the value of energy produced by wind projects,” the company said in its filing at the board.
Bayer said he expected the Forest Service and Public Service Board officials would try to rely on one another’s analyses of the proposal so as not to duplicate work.
By David Gram
Associated Press Writer
27 February 2007
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