The Green Mountain Club expects Green Mountain Power to follow through and put radar-activated lights on proposed turbines on Lowell Mountain.
The club spokesman also said the club would be vigilant in making sure that GMP cleans up the sites on the ridge line once the project is obsolete, as required under a decommissioning plan approved by state regulators.
The Vermont Public Service Board last week granted a certificate of public good to GMP and its partners Vermont Electric Cooperative and VELCO, the transmission company, to erect 21 commercial-grade turbines on Lowell’s ridge line.
Under the plan, GMP must pursue the technology for warning lights that come on only when aircraft approach rather than putting up blinking red warning lights that would be on all the time.
The board also required a complex decommissioning plan with a fund to cover the cost of removing the turbines once they are no longer operating and to return the sites to a more natural state.
The certificate is contingent on a series of conditions and other permits, such as for storm-water discharge during and after construction.
The approval would be for 25 years. GMP wants to begin construction this summer.
“When utility-scale energy development projects directly impact the Long Trail and hiking in Vermont, the Green Mountain Club has an obligation to play a role,” Will Wiquist, Green Mountain Club executive director said last week.
“The Green Mountain Club expects GMP to live up to its commitment – made privately to the club and endorsed by the Public Service Board – to install radar-activated lighting systems in order to reduce the visual impact of the wind development.
“Hiking is one of Vermont’s major tourist draws during the summer and it must be a consideration in planning for wind projects in the state,” Wiquist said. “Further, the Public Service Board has required that this project must include a comprehensive decommissioning plan which fully addresses the unavoidable impacts a project of this size will have Vermont ridge lines. We will be vigilant in making sure Green Mountain Power takes Vermont hikers into account.”
The Green Mountain Club did not oppose the wind project. The club actively participated in the hearing before the Public Service Board in February, seeking to minimize impacts of the wind development on The Long Trail and the hiking experience.
In particular, club members were concerned about what the red warning lights would look like in the night sky, one of the special features treasured by hikers on the Long Trail in northern Vermont and seen from historic campsites on the trail.
The club argued in favor of radar-activated lighting for the towers called Object Collision Avoidance Systems. The lights in this system are in the process of being approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The developers of the Kingdom Community Wind project have committed to the Green Mountain Club that they will make every effort to obtain approval and implement this technology, club officials said.
The club intends to monitor the compliance phase of this process closely to ensure GMP complies with the conditions imposed by the Public Service Board.
Renewable power plays a positive role in our society, club officials said.
Because of the sheer size of this development, the club wanted to make sure the developers considered the natural environment to the maximum extent possible, club officials added.
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