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Eco-minded students finally meet a renewable they don’t like

Most colleges these days are bastions of environmental correctness, and Vermont’s smallest four-year school – Sterling College, in Craftsbury Common – is no exception. Sterling goes even further, promoting “sustainability” in ways most schools can only dream about. Students grow a good share of the vegetables that show up in the dining hall, for example. People at Sterling are always looking for ways to reduce the college’s admittedly tiny carbon footprint.

So, it’s interesting to see students at Sterling getting worked up about a wind farm – on the other side! The installation in question is Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind Farm, proposed for the Lowell Mountain ridgeline. A petition opposing the project, signed by 29 staffers and 80 students (Sterling only has about 120 students altogether), has been sent to the Public Service Board.

Not that the students oppose wind power per se, says Ira Powsner, a Sterling junior who’s majoring in conservation ecology and who helped get the petition started. They just believe that 400-plus-foot turbines aren’t appropriate for ridgelines in general, and for Lowell in particular. The students are especially familiar with that one, because it’s the destination of their annual “winter expedition,” Sterling’s signature three-day trek that freshmen and transfer students make – without tents, without stoves, and for the time being, without 400-foot wind turbines. About 25 students set off for the Lowell range today – with blankets, without blanket support of renewables.

Here they go, into the wilderness …

[photo available at source]

“Large-scale industrial wind development on Vermont ridgelines will create permanent changes to the topography of the mountains, further fragment wildlife habitat, and potentially cause erosion and runoff into local watersheds,” the petition reads.

Small scale wind turbines are another matter, in Powsner’s view.

“In our classes at Sterling we learn a lot about small scale sustainability, energy renewables, and efficient transportation,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We have a barn on our college’s farm that runs off a small wind turbine and solar panels. The school is also investing in the environmental renovation of two of it’s largest dorms and plan to have these dorms totally relying on renewable energy.

“As a student, I’ve been talking with local farmers who love to have individual wind turbines on their farms, and the farms that have them around Craftsbury that are tied into the grid are supplying their local community with renewable energy. This is the kind of wind power I support.”