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Wind opponents protest en masse in Montpelier

A large-scale wind power project planned for the northern Vermont town of Lowell is coming under fire from critics who say it’s too expensive and environmentally damaging.

Opponents say 120 people – about 80 from neighboring towns around the Kingdom Community Wind project in Lowell – rallied in Montpelier Wednesday morning to deliver a letter to the governor’s office at the State House.

Accompanied by large-scale puppets from Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover, the opponents also went on Wednesday afternoon to the Colchester headquarters of Green Mountain Power, which plans to erect 21 industrial-grade turbines on the Lowell ridge line.

They delivered a letter asking Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Legislature to focus on solar power rather than wind power.

Opponents say the cuts in carbon emissions coming from the turbines more than 450 feet tall will cost more than $100 per ton of carbon saved – versus the $25 a ton that’s more the standard in the renewable energy field.

The protesters, in buses that left Orleans County towns of Albany and Craftsbury mid-morning Wednesday, also delivered 120 comments from Vermonters about wind energy to the Vermont Department of Public Service which is crafting a statewide energy plan for the Legislature, said Lukas Snelling of Energize Vermont.

“It was amazing,” Snelling said late Wednesday.

“It demonstrated the growing movement in Vermont” against large wind projects on ridge lines, Snelling said.

The opponents don’t expect the governor to respond, but they do hope he will listen to their opinions. Shumlin has been in Canada this week.

Opponents have stated their case in public throughout the regulatory process. Even now, as GMP awaits the final nod from the regulators on the Public Service Board to begin construction, opponents want a say in deterring these kind of projects.

“We are tired of the state allowing developers to force their inappropriate renewable developments onto the back of our communities and ridge lines,” Albany resident Mike Nelson said in a statement before the bus trip began. “We are taking a stand and sending the message that these utility-scale wind developments and all their impacts to our natural resources will not be tolerated.”

Ben Luce, professor of Sustainability at Lyndon State College, has argued for solar power over wind throughout the regulatory process.

“We are going directly to the decision-making powers to tell them that the destruction that comes with utility-scale wind power on our ridge lines is simply not appropriate or necessary for Vermont to achieve a clean energy future,” Luce said in a statement.

He offered solar technology as a part of better path for Vermont.

“The cost of solar power is decreasing very rapidly, and should be competitive with retail power prices soon. Solar is also a much larger resource when compared with wind power in the Eastern U.S. By gradually accelerating the use of solar power, along with much more aggressive weatherization and energy efficiency measures, we can actually reduce greenhouse gas more rapidly and more cost effectively in Vermont than with wind and without ruining our mountains.”

Dorothy Schnure, Green Mountain Power spokeswoman, says Vermonters and the state Legislature both support wind power, and that the Lowell Mountain project is the most cost-effective way to make it happen.

GMP is waiting for the PSB to approve final permits about water quality control by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and remediation work on neighboring lands that are destined to be conserved in mitigation for the wind project.

GMP had wanted to begin construction by Aug. 1. The company wants to have the turbines spinning by the end of 2012 in order to receive federal production tax credits that would keep the price of the electricity from the wind project lower.