DERBY LINE – The developers of a proposed two-turbine wind project here said Tuesday evening that they plan to begin the permitting process soon and hope to have construction under way in about a year.
After the meeting, which was held to discuss plans to put up a tower on each of two Derby Line farms, Phil Letourneau, who owns another farm nearby, said that he, too, has signed a contract with Encore Redevelopment to put up a tower on his land.
“It’s coming,” Mr. Letourneau said. But it will follow construction of a 425-foot tall tower on Grand View Farm, which is owned by Bryan and Susan Davis, and another erected at Chase Farm, owned by Jonathan and Jayne Chase.
Chad Farrell of Encore showed site plans and view shed maps to a gathering of about 25 people at the Derby Line Village Hall Tuesday night. The reception that he and his team met was mixed.
While all three Derby Line Trustees were present their participation in the discussion was very limited. The two Derby selectmen who attended, though, vigorously aired their differing opinions.
When Mr. Farrell told the gathering that his company wants to be completely open about its plans for the project, Derby Selectman Karen Jenne pointed to the company’s view shed map. It appeared to cut off a ten-mile circle at the Canadian border. Ms. Jenne asked if Stanstead officials had been informed about the project.
Mr. Farrell and his colleague Nick Richardson, who assisted in the presentation, said, yes, they have been notified. Ms. Jenne said she has spoken to members of the Stanstead City Council and found them to be in the dark about the project.
Matthew Farfan, a former member of the Stanstead Council who now writes for the Sherbrooke Record, said he spoke with Stanstead’s mayor while preparing a story on the project and found he knew nothing about the proposed towers. Keith Beadle, chairman of the Derby Line Trustees, said the mayor knew about the wind project when he talked to him.
At any rate, Mr. Richardson told the gathering, the truncated view shed maps were an unfortunate consequence of the American made software the company used to produce them. He promised that all towns within the view shed will be compensated in proportion to the amount of their land that falls within the ten-mile circle.
Mr. Richardson was careful to avoid the suggestion that the money might be a form of reparation for damage to the view caused by the presence of the towers.
Mr. Letourneau said people on the Canadian side shouldn’t be contacted or paid. “They put up a tower with blinking lights all night long. They never asked us anything,” he said.
The wind towers are a valuable addition to the landscape and are likely to draw tourists to the area, Mr. Farrell said. He said the project will provide new income to the two farms and enable them to continue in business.
The area will also benefit from the sale of power to Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC), he said. Mr. Farrell said the co-op will buy the power under the state’s standard offer price program, which guarantees developers of renewable energy a higher return than other ources of energy might command. The initial price may be relatively high, but VEC members will benefit in the long run, because that price is guaranteed for 20 years, Mr. Farrell said.
Ms. Jenne was not mollified. She said she heard that Encore had offered the town $50,000 a year as a tax payment. That, she said, would lower Derby’s tax rate by only a penny. A fairer way to assess the site would be by taking into account the $10-million cost of the project.
Mr. Farrell said it’s customary to base tax payments on the amount of power that could be generated – in this case around 14 million kilowatts – rather than on construction costs.
The towers will not be a drain on town services and, so, should not pay the higher rate, Mr. Richardson added.
Mr. Smith agreed with the company representatives. “I don’t think the tax is the most important thing to the town,” he said. “Two farms are important, and we’ll get more from this project than we would from a hospital or churches.”
Tammi Poulin said a man who’d told her he was conducting wind studies for the project also said that one of the towers would be placed about 100 yards from her house. She said she’s worried about noise and the nuisance of having a moving shadow continually racing across her property.
Mr. Farrell and Nils Behn of Alteris Renewables, which is doing the engineering for the project, said they plan to use a different type of turbine than those installed on Sheffield Heights. Their turbines, they said, are direct drive units rather than ones in which the power is transmitted through a gearbox.
They run more quietly and are less susceptible to breakdowns, Mr. Behn said.
Mr. Farrell said his company hopes to buy the turbines from Northern Power, a Vermont manufacturer.
Steve Wright of Craftsbury, who has been active in opposition to the wind project proposed for Lowell Mountain, asked for permission to address the meeting. When it was granted he said that the Act 248 process is complicated and very difficult for a lay person to navigate.
In order for the town or village to participate effectively, they will need to hire a lawyer, which, he said, is a very costly matter. Private donors have raised $112,000 in Craftsbury and Albany to fight the Lowell project, and most of it is spent already, Mr. Wright said.
Mr. Farrell said he doesn’t think it should be necessary for the town to hire a lawyer to participate in the Act 248 hearings. He said the Public Service Board, which will judge the merits of the application, has produced a booklet that explains the process to citizens.
“I’m not a lawyer and I could understand it,” Mr. Farrell said.
Encore is a Burlington-based company that has been in business for four years, Mr. Farrell said after the meeting. Although the company has built several large scale solar projects in Chittenden County and a couple of smaller wind projects, the proposal for Derby Line would be the biggest project they’ve undertaken to date.
Mr. Farrell said he wants to see the approval project go forward quickly. “After all, time is money,” he said, smiling.
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