DERBY LINE – Developers have an ambitious schedule to raise two industrial-scale wind turbines on the hills above Derby Line by November 2012.
On Monday evening, they told about 30 people, including Derby Line trustees and the Derby Board of Selectmen, that they intend to apply for a state certificate of public good by the end of the summer.
In the meantime, the Vermont companies that are partnering to erect the 425-foot-tall turbines on farm fields east of the village say they want to meet again with local residents and talk about tax payments and compensation to area communities and possibly to adjacent landowners.
They also want to reach out to Stanstead, Quebec, where the turbines would be more visible than in nearly all neighborhoods in Derby Line.
Chad Farrell, principal engineer in Encore Redevelopment of Burlington, said the Derby Line wind project is unique.
“We do see this as a win-win-win opportunity,” Farrell said, for Vermont farms, companies and communities.
Only a few people expressed concern about the project during the meeting at Derby Line Village Hall.
One was Derby Line Clerk Karen Jenne, who is also a Derby selectman. She would see one of the turbines from her backyard on Pelow Hill.
Also critical of the project was Rep. Lynn Batchelor, R-Derby and a Derby Line resident. She is one of seven Orleans County legislators fighting the Lowell wind project and urging Vermont Electric Cooperative members to vote against a power line upgrade that would benefit the Lowell project.
Otherwise, the questions flew for about an hour from local residents, officials and several from Craftsbury who are opposed to Lowell wind, plus reporters from both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.
The turbines would be visible from hillside homes in Derby, Holland Elementary School, the U.S. and Canadian ports on Interstate 91 and from homes on the eastern side of Derby Line.
The turbines are proposed for two farms on the U.S.-Canadian border: Grand View Farm, a dairy farm owned by Bryan and Susan Davis nearest the interstate; and an organic dairy farm owned by Jonathan and Jayne Chase.
Going through farm fields to erect turbines means the environmental impact is almost non-existent, Farrell said. And a road to carry the turbine parts and crane wouldn’t look much different than the existing farm road, he said.
The hills where the turbines are proposed have the best wind resource for a working landscape in Vermont, they said.
“You all have a very unique situation … a tremendous wind resource that’s not on a ridge line,” Farrell said.
The developers have to have the two turbines operating by January 2013 to qualify for the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development program, the developers said.
They dropped plans for a third turbine because it would not fit in under the SPEED program.
The Derby wind project would be the first wind project under the SPEED program, Farrell said.
“You would be recognized as a leader around New England,” he said.
Farrell said Encore and partners Alteris Renewables and Northern Power Systems are all Vermont companies using new technology to build turbines without gearboxes.
He called the turbines the “most quiet turbines on the market today.”
They hope to have state approval by January 2012, hire contractors and order turbines in the spring and then build roads and erect the towers by the fall of 2012.
The $11 million project could generate enough power to supply 900 homes, they said.
“That’s a little over 1 percent of the entire state load, generated right here in Derby Line,” Farrell said.
The partners promised to keep the process transparent.
“Our commitment to you is it will be a very open collaborative process,” said financier John DeVillars of Blue Wave Capital of Boston.
They want to meet with the community at a larger meeting soon, Farrell said.
The project would benefit from federal production tax credits and from renewable energy credits, both of which reduce the cost of the project, they said.
Under SPEED, utilities must buy the electricity generated by smaller-scale renewable projects at favorable rates in long-term contracts, they said.
The project would generate property tax revenue for the town of Derby.
The developers said that could be in the ballpark of $50,000 annually for two turbines – a tenth of what Lowell is expected to receive from the 21 turbines of the Lowell wind project. The tax payments would fluctuate with the production of the wind turbines.
Green Mountain Power’s deal with Lowell provides “a pretty good framework” for those negotiations, Nick Richardson with Encore said.
The partners would also consider “good neighbor” payments to communities in the view shed, such as Holland, Derby Line and Stanstead.
Farrell told a Quebec journalist at the meeting that the partners are considering the border. “This is a unique situation obviously. We are sitting right on the border.”
The project would create from 25 to 50 jobs.
Aside from the clean power benefits for Vermont and help for the farmers, Richardson said the project would not lower anyone’s electricity bill but would support the tax base.
Dale LeRoux of Barton, whose company helps install smaller scale turbine parts, called the project “great.”
So did Derby Board of Selectmen Chairman Brian Smith. He said the area is seeing two different types of wind projects now: ridge line projects and farm-based projects.
“As long as it helps two farms, I don’t see a problem with it myself,” he said.
“It’s going to be a big help to us,” Jonathan Chase said.
Bryan Smith said his family would receive payments based on a percentage of the electricity produced by the wind turbine on his farm.
The existing small turbine on his property will still operate.
Derby Line trustees did not comment on the project Tuesday, but chairman Keith Beadle has said he supports it.
Farrell said they want community support. What form that takes would depend on what the local boards want to do, he said.
Jenne spoke up early in the meeting. “I am not in favor of this project, I’ll be right up front with you,” she said.
She said she is concerned about the impact on property values. She also lamented the fact that it wouldn’t lower her electricity bill.
Jenne noted that the turbine on the Davis farm would be like a beacon to anyone who wanted to cross into the U.S. illegally.
“I would prefer to see Bryan’s current turbine and cows and snowmobiles at night,” she said.
Another person asked if homes in the area would see their property values drop.
The developers said research shows that wind projects do not affect property values.
Steve Wright, a member of the Craftsbury Conservation Commission and an opponent of the Lowell wind project, challenged the partners’ assertion that wind power would help ease the impact of global warming because wind power is intermittent and not a base power.
“We need to deploy a multitude of different resources,” Farrell said. “In this part of the state, wind resource makes sense.”
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