Citizens Wind is not soliciting bids for a commercial wind project on the Northfield Ridge in Waitsfield.
That’s the word from company spokesperson Ashley Durmer in a letter to Waitsfield Select Board chair Kate Williams.
In an August 26 letter, Durmer said she had received several phone calls about a false posting for construction bids on the Works in Progress website. Works In Progress lists possible construction projects on its website.
Citizens Wind came to Waitsfield this spring to explain that it was exploring the feasibility of a commercial wind farm on the Northfield Ridge because the ridge appeared to meet three important criteria: access to the existing grid, good winds and flat/accessibility on top. In the spring, two company representatives acknowledged that Waitsfield’s Town Plan specifically prohibits commercial wind farming above 1,700 feet on the ridge. The two said that they were hopeful citizens would change the Town Plan.
CURRENT AND PENDING
The Waitsfield Planning Commission declined to make any changes to the current wind farming prohibition in the current and pending version of the Town Plan. In the meantime, Citizens Wind representatives came to the Moretown Energy Commission to explain the company’s interest in the Moretown portion of the Northfield Ridge – which runs from Warren north past Moretown.
Initially, Citizens Wind expressed interest in constructing 15 to 24 500-foot-tall wind towers on the top of the ridge from Waitsfield’s border with Moretown, south to the Warren town line. The towers would be accessed via a gravel road along the top of the ridge. Company spokesperson Randy Male subsequently told Moretown residents and its energy committee that his company would be interested in extending the project further north into Moretown than it had originally intended.
Two weeks ago, Durmer said that the company was aware that Waitsfield had declined to change its Town Plan. In response to questions about whether the company had filed requests with the Vermont Public Service Board (which permits wind projects and the monitoring data needed to assess a year’s worth of wind) for MET towers to monitor the wind on the ridge, Durmer said, the company had not filed any applications.
A LONG WAY
Durmer, in her August 26 letter, writes, “Our company is in the early stages of investigating the feasibility of a wind project along the ridge, but we are a long way from determining whether it makes sense to move forward, let alone put a construction project out to bid.”
“There are a number of variables involved in determining the feasibility of a wind farm in a particular location, all of which are done prior to building an actual wind farm. These include looking at the wind capacity, access to transmission, the electricity market, construction costs, local and state regulations and community support. Our team examines each of these factors in roughly parallel fashion. It is important to emphasize that in this project, as in all our projects, we intend to gather information and seek counsel in an open and transparent manner,” Durmer continued.
EXPLORATION IS CONTINUING
While Durmer said exploration into feasibility is continuing, Northfield resident Anne Donahue reported that she also spoke to Citizens Wind and was told that community outreach in the area would get underway by mid-September. The letter to Waitsfield makes no reference to community outreach, but it is copied to the select boards and planning commissions in Moretown and Northfield, as well as the Waitsfield Planning Commission.
Donahue, who is running for re-election as state representative from Moretown, Northfield and Roxbury, wrote in an email to constituents that she called Citizens Wind about the project and the company spokesperson said ‘full outreach to all area residents is planned.”
Donahue wrote: “The company was, in its words, ‘backed into a couple of meetings’ that were not planned at such a preliminary stage, when word of an introductory conversation about wind energy with the planning board in Waitsfield spread rapidly, and there was a large community turnout and coverage in the local press.”
“The company’s intent is to begin active outreach to provide information and seek community response in Northfield by about mid-September. [That would have been the intended timeline for Waitsfield and Moretown.] After getting this initial gauge of the level of support, the next step planned is a ‘very public series of events’ to create good public dialogue,” Donahue wrote.
Brian O’Connor, communications director for Citizens Wind, said that the company was engaged in ongoing outreach and research into the feasibility of a project on the Northfield Ridge. He said the company was aware that Waitsfield had not changed its Town Plan as well.
“Up to this stage, it’s been clear that there is not the intention to change the Town Plan. Is there some sentiment for revisiting that decision in the community? I don’t know that yet. I can’t say if citizens would petition the town for a change in the Town Plan. That is part of our assessment. What was decided by the planning commission was a matter of record; what others in the community feel is something we have to explore,” O’Connor said.
That exploration was being done by calling people in the area, responding to letters and emails and talking to elected and appointed leaders in the communities, he added, noting that it was being done concurrent with exploring the technical aspects of such as project.