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Lightning strikes Derby windmill

DERBY – The small windmill on Grand View Farm, the proposed site of a 425-foot wind turbine, is down.

It has nothing to do with the remnants of Hurricane Irene, which went through the North Country late Sunday evening without doing the kind of damage seen elsewhere in Vermont this week.

No, the blades and small turbine atop the small tower above Bryan Davis’s dairy farm above Interstate 91 fell victim to a run-of-the-mill thunderstorm.

Lightning struck the windmill last month, knocking the small turbine out of commission.

Davis said the turbine is in Oklahoma being diagnosed. It’s not clear if it can be repaired or must be replaced.

The inverter is in California, being repaired, Davis said.

Both parts are six years old.

The small windmill has provided half the electricity that the farm needs.

The farm will put the windmill back in commission as soon as possible.

“We are going to have something back up on the hill pretty quickly,” Davis said.

Davis called it good news that the local power grid can handle two large wind turbines proposed by a partnership of Vermont companies led by Encore Redevelopment.

Encore is expected to apply for certificates of public good for a large turbine to go next to the small windmill on the Davis farm and also on the Chase farm nearby.

Once the application is made, Encore and partners are expected to have a public meeting about the project. And Encore will have to meet with Derby town officials to discuss what the tax bill for two 2.2-megawatt wind turbines would be each year.

Both turbines would be visible in parts of Holland and from Interstate 91 and the U.S. port of entry and some eastern neighborhoods in Derby Line. They also would be visible in Stanstead, Quebec.

They hope to have state approval by January 2011, hire contractors and order turbines in the spring and then build roads and erect the towers by the fall of 2012. They want the project online by the end of 2012 to benefit from federal production tax credits as well.

The $11 million project would have the capacity to generate enough electricity to supply 900 homes.

The developers have to have the two turbines operating by January 2013 to qualify for the state’s Sustainably Priced Energy Development program, which was created in 2005 and updated in 2009 to spur renewable energy projects.

The Derby wind project would be the first wind project developed under the SPEED program, Farrell said.

The program drew so much interest that many developers stepped forward. Utilities are required to pay higher costs for renewable projects of a smaller size – of 2.2 megawatts of electricity or less – under the SPEED program.

The proposed wind turbines on the Davis and Chase farms each made it onto the SPEED list. A turbine for the nearby Letourneau farm did not.