UPC Wind plans to continue with its construction schedule for a wind farm in Sheffield, even though Ridge Protectors, a citizens group opposed to commercial wind on Vermont’s rural ridgelines, has filed an appeal of the Vermont Public Service Board’s decision with the Vermont Supreme Court.
“We think the Public Service Board’s decision will stand the test of time,” said Matt Kearns of UPC, project manager for Sheffield, on Friday.
The Supreme Court could overturn the PSB’s decision, if it decides to hear the case. Kearns said UPC has faith that won’t happen.
“We’re going forward,” he said. “We’re looking to complete all of the conditions under the certificate of public good. We’ve played by the rules, and we’re trusting that was a careful and direct discussion. We believe in the PSB, so we’re making our plans to begin construction.”
This month, UPC plans to start putting up meteorological towers to measure wind speed and direction. It hopes to start putting up the actual wind turbines in June and have the project operational by December.
The project involves 16 420-foot turbines on Sheffield ridgelines and is expected to produce enough energy, according to UPC, to power all the homes in Caledonia County.
The energy won’t actually go to Caledonia County; it will go onto a grid, one of the reasons opponents object to it. Some say that those who suffer its adverse affects should also directly receive its benefits.
Ridge Protectors appeal mainly addresses the economic benefits, or lack thereof, and the adverse aesthetic affects of the project.
The PSB had ruled that the economic benefits of the 40-megawatt project outweighed its adverse affects, but it attached 32 conditions to its decision.
Ridge Protectors suit, filed by attorneys Dan Hershenson of Norwich and Anthony Roisman of Lyme, N.H., argues that the wind farm will not have a substantial economic benefit to Vermonters, largely because it doesn’t have stable power contracts.
Kearns said UPC expects those to be in place this winter.
The appeal also argues that the PSB order did not take into consideration the regional plan for the area, in which people had explicitly expressed opposition to commercial wind.
The certificate of public good was issued as a conditional use.
Kearns said UPC has every intention of complying with the 32 conditions of the PSB certificate of public good.
Meanwhile, commercial wind power in the Northeast Kingdom remains contentious on all sorts of grounds.
In Barton, some are so wary they they’re trying to change the town plan to ban commercial and industrial wind entirely.
On a state level, however, the Vermont Public Service Department found that most people favored wind as a renewable source of energy so much so that they would be willing to have a turbine within sight.
It’s a risk for UPC to invest in a project, Kearns said, but he believes the PSB decision will be upheld, and UPC plans to proceed accordingly.
By Tena Starr
2 February 2008
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