Vermont Community Wind Farm has not abandoned the Poultney/Ira ridgeline wind project by any means. They are “suspending” their bid until Montpelier can give them a clear path to success.
Wennberg and White-Hansen are whining about the high cost of doing business in Vermont to support the “streamlining” bill making its way toward law in Montpelier. Rep. Klein, the House Resources Committee, and the “big wind” entrepreneurs are pushing a bill that will eliminate all appeals to the Environmental Court once the Public Service Board makes a ruling.
This is environmentally sensitive permitting and should be subject to the same considerations that govern Act 250. This “streamlining” legislation which falls under Section 248 seeks to remove the Environmental Court from the appeals process. If passed, it is an admission that safeguarding the environment is no longer a primary consideration where energy generation is proposed. Once the PSB has permitted a project (and the PSB’s only real concern is power generation), appeals could only be made to the PSB who made the ruling in the first place.
Equally important, in Montpelier this session, Rep. Klein’s committee has neglected to take up a bill proposed by Rep. Potter of Clarendon that would have addressed appropriate size and siting criteria for commercial wind projects in Vermont. Industrial ridgeline wind is a Vermontwide issue, but at present sites must be contested on a project-by-project basis by towns and citizens who do not have the resources to adequately represent themselves.
It is ironic that the state is spending a great deal of money to brand products and to attract tourists and residents with assurance of pristine mountains and hiking, hunting, biking, quiet, country lifestyle, and rusticity. Vermont has been included in National Geographic’s top five worldwide tourist destinations because of these qualities.
The blasting and destruction of habitat and watershed that is necessary to install utility-sized mountaintop wind with the accompanying blinking lights and turbine noise will destroy the very qualities that Vermont is trying to market. To sell our heritage to the highest bidder is a very expensive trade-off.
At this moment there is no need for additional electric (especially non-baseload) power generation. Wind factories in New York state are giving away power for free. The next generation of wind and solar technology will be vastly improved, more efficient, and site-suitable. Offshore wind and natural gas are effective substitutions for oil and coal.
Vermont’s ridgelines can generate only a small and intermittent supply of (non-baseload) power generation. There should be no rush to follow Maine and Massachusetts in building inappropriately sited and scaled industrial wind projects that will soon be dinosaurs on our mountaintops. We should learn from their experience. Towns that permitted industrial wind development are discovering the environmental downside of what they mistakenly assumed was unquestionably “green and clean.”
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