(Host) The Green Mountain Club has raised concerns about a large wind power project proposed for the Northeast Kingdom.
The club maintains and protects the Long Trail, a footpath that follows the spine of the Green Mountains. And the club worries that wind turbines planned for Lowell Mountain could affect the back-country experience for hikers on the trail.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) This is the first time that the Green Mountain Club has waded into the wind energy debate. Ben Rose, the club’s executive director, explains his organization’s decision to intervene in the Lowell project.
(Rose) “Because this is the first project that will be very visible from portions of the Long Trail and so as a matter of precedent, it’s important for the Green Mountain Club to be paying close attention and to be putting things on the record.”
(Dillon) The Public Service Board has allowed the club to participate in the Lowell case, which means the club can file testimony and cross examine witnesses. Rose says the project’s 20 to 21 turbines – each about 440 feet tall – will be visible along a 10 mile section of trail. The towers will be lit at night to warn airplanes.
The Long Trail is known as Vermont’s footpath through the wilderness, and the club is particularly concerned about how the tower lights will affect the back country experience.
(Rose) “For example Tillotson Camp is a beautiful site on the Long Trail with a nighttime view of the Lowell Range, and it’s dark. And we think that Vermont ought to be dark at 3 am as seen from the Long Trail.”
(Dillon) Green Mountain Power is the project developer. And Rose hopes the utility will use technology that turns on the tower lights only when an airplane is nearby.
(Rose) “There’s general agreement that there are adverse impacts from the project. The test that the Public Service Board has to look at is whether there is undue adverse impact. And undue adverse impact hinges on a number of things, for example has there been full mitigation.”
(Dillon) Dorothy Schnure is spokeswoman for GMP. She points out that at its nearest point the Long Trail is six miles from the Lowell Mountain ridgeline.
(Schnure) “The question is how will the night lights affect the experience of those people that hike on the Long Trail at night? And that’s what the Public Service will have to judge – whether the impact on the few people who do hike the Long Trail at night, whether that impact outweighs the public good and environment benefits of having in-state renewable generation that will provide enough clean stably priced power to 20,000 homes.”
(Dillon) Schnure says the utility has no plans right now to employ the less obtrusive lighting technology.
The 63-megawatt Lowell project is one of a half-dozen major wind developments planned for ridgelines and mountain tops around Vermont.
The Green Mountain Club hopes regulators look at the cumulative impact the projects could have on Vermont’s back country.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.
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