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Wind project takes first step  

A proposed wind farm on Grandpa’s Knob cleared its first state hurdle last week.

The Public Service Board issued a certificate of public good for a pair of meteorological towers that will test the wind levels atop the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline. The towers, described in the finding as up to 197 feet tall and 8 to 10 inches thick, are set to land on sites in Castleton and Hubbardton.

Testing could last up to five years, according to the board’s findings.

The board issued the certificate to Grandpa’s Knob Windpark L.L.C., a subsidiary of Noble Environmental Power. A Connecticut-based company with an office in Rutland, Noble started talking publicly earlier this year about the idea of placing towers on the ridge.

The ridge straddles town borders, touching on Castleton, Hubbardton, West Rutland and Pittsford. The board’s finding authorized test towers in Hubbardton and West Rutland. The company initially included a third in Pittsford, but withdrew that part of the application.

Pittsford Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay said Brad King, Noble’s local representative, told her the company had two monitoring towers readily available and the site in Pittsford had the most “topographical challenges.”

The findings said several nearby landowners contacted the board, but that most of the concerns raised were about the development of wind farms, and the application only covered meteorological equipment.

“Any subsequent request for approval to construct a wind generation facility will be the subject of a separate proceeding and will afford interested persons the opportunity to comment on the proposal,” the decision read.

King did not immediately return calls Tuesday afternoon.

A spokeswoman at Noble’s headquarters in Connecticut said the company felt two towers would be adequate and they expect to have the towers in place for three years, though they may go for the entire five.

The towers will be held up by wires, with measuring equipment at several levels. While they will be visible above the tree canopy, the board found their small diameter will make them difficult to distinguish from a range of a mile or more – unlike communication towers located nearby.

Batteries charged from a photovoltaic panel will power the tower, which will gather data on wind speed, wind direction and temperature and store it in a recorder at the tower’s base, periodically using an on-site cell phone to transmit it to an Internet service provider that turns the information into an e-mail attachment.

All materials will be brought to the sites by ATV, minimizing road use, according to the finding. Up to three-quarters of an acre of trees will be cleared from each site.

Once the data-collection period ends, Noble will disassemble the towers and remove them.

Public reaction to the proposal is muted. None of the select boards from the involved towns sent in an official response, through Pittsford passed along correspondents from residents before its portion of the request was withdrawn.

Ramsay said the town had a well-attended meeting on the issue in October, and characterized the tone as neutral overall, with some voicing support and other expressing concerns.

“Nobody’s approached us either way, except Noble themselves, and frankly we haven’t heard from them in a while,” West Rutland Select Board Chairman Sean Barrows said.

Hubbardton Select Board Chairman George Davis said when he saw Noble was applying for the permit, he expected to hear from the company, but has not.

“The board doesn’t know any more than what we read in the paper at this point,” Davis said

Both Davis and Barrows said they have heard almost nothing from their constituents on the issue.

“We’re just sitting here, waiting to see what happens,” Davis said.

Noble has estimated a wind farm on Grandpa’s Knob could generate 50 megawatts of electricity and said it would invest up to $100 million in such a project. The company is developing wind farms around the country, especially in New York, and recently announced a contract to buy 333 wind towers from General Electric Energy for $650 million.

By Gordon Dritschilo Herald Staff

Rutland Herald

19 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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