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Big turbines proposed in Derby, Holland

DERBY LINE – A Vermont company wants to erect two or three industrial-scale wind turbines in the hills above the village of Derby Line.

Nils Behn of Alteris Renewables confirmed Tuesday that Vermont companies Alteris and Encore Redevelopment intend to erect the 425-foot-tall turbines on farm fields on the hills east of Interstate 91 on the U.S.-Canadian border.

Alteris and Encore already have contracts with local farmers Bryan Davis of Grand View Farm in Derby and Jonathan and Jayne Chase of Holland to lease farm fields for one turbine on each farm, Behn said.

Another turbine may be proposed for a third farm in the area, he said.

Jayne Chase would not comment about the project. Davis could not be reached for comment.

The partners intend to seek certificates of public good from state regulators for each turbine by the end of July, Behn said.

They will meet with local residents at a public meeting at Derby Line Village Hall 7 p.m. July 11, hosted by the Derby Line Board of Trustees.

The site is exactly what the partners were looking for, Behn said.

“This is by far the best place in Vermont” when it comes to wind resource on a working landscape, he said.

The hills above Derby Line already feature three smaller windmills of about 125 feet tall on three different farms, including one on the Davis farm.

The companies involved are not interested in developing wind on ridge lines, he said.

They have another project this size in the works, but Behn said they are not ready to say where in Vermont that could be located.

The turbines would produce a maximum at capacity of 2.2 megawatts of electricity each, enough to power more than 900 homes each, Behn said.

That’s more than the village of Derby Line.

Village Trustee Keith Beadle said Tuesday that he was invited to a recent private meeting with the developers of the turbine project.

“It sounds like a good project,” Beadle said. “The farmer will still have use of his fields and it won’t disrupt wildlife.”

Derby Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Smith and Derby Zoning Administrator Bob Kelley said they also attended the same meeting, as did Tom Bailey of Derby.

Bailey represents the Derby area on the board of directors of Vermont Electric Cooperative.

Smith said selectmen would attend the special meeting July 11 about the wind project.

The most visible site would be the Davis Grand View Farm, where a small windmill is just visible from the northbound lane of I-91 near the border. Most of Derby Line’s residential neighborhoods face away from the interstate and may not have much of a view of the proposed turbine.

Neighbors who live on and around the hills in Holland and Derby would have a broader view of the turbines.

The Davis turbine would be visible in parts of Stanstead, Quebec, across the border.

Behn said the turbines would not have a gear box, which would eliminate concerns about low-frequency sound. The turbine manufacturer is a third partner in the project, Barre-based Northern Power Systems, Behn said.

Northern Power Systems manufactures a direct drive permanent magnet system for turbines. “They are one of the leaders in the technology,” he said.

Some of the turbine parts would be made for the Barre company at a plant in Saginaw, Mich.

The turbines, constructed, would cost $5 million to $6 million each.

“We are working very hard to present this as a Vermont project, with Vermont partners, Vermont sub-contractors and a U.S. manufacturer,” he said.

A feasibility study is under way to determine whether existing power lines in Derby and Holland can handle the electricity to be produced by the turbines.

That would determine whether the partners erect one, two or three turbines, Behn said.

Two are likely, although the project could dwindle to just the one for the Davis farm if the lines are not sufficient to handle the electricity.

Behn said the partners would talk about noise and shadow flicker, the shadow cast by blades near the turbines, at the meeting.

Under a state program, VEC would have to purchase the electricity from the turbines at favorable rates. Behn said VEC could decide to become a partner in the project.

Vermont’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development Program encourages the development of renewable energy resources under 2.2 megawatts in size by requiring utilities to pay favorable rates for the power.

VEC would be able to claim renewable tax credits for buying the power and supports the project, Behn said.

The intent of the program, updated by the Legislature in 2009, is to generate 20 percent of Vermont’s electricity through SPEED approved projects by 2017.

Behn said the companies have also talked with statutory parties in any wind project: the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, VEC and other state agencies.

Alteris, Northern Power Systems and Encore Redevelopment will sell the turbines to other investors once built. Behn said the partners would have no trouble selling the turbines.

Real Goods Solar, a public company involved in solar power for 30 years, now owns Alteris Renewables.