DERBY LINE – Developers of two large wind turbines proposed for farms above Derby Line have started the clock on the permit process.
Encore Redevelopment and partner Blue Wave Capital filed a 45-day notice last week with area towns that they are about to seek state permission to erect the 425-foot-tall turbines.
That gives towns and the regional commission less than 45 days to comment on the $11 million project before the developers file a request on Oct. 28 for a certificate of public good before state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board.
The comments have to be filed seven days before Oct. 27, according to the notice on the Encore Redevelopment website.
On Tuesday evening, leaders of Encore Redevelopment, along with the farmers who are hosting the turbines, met a second time with 25 local residents and municipal leaders in the Derby Line village hall.
Studies are underway on the noise, environmental and other impacts of the project, said Chad Farrell, principal engineer with Encore.
“There really are no critical environmental impacts associated with this project,” Farrell said. “Things look good.”
The turbines would be erected on the Grandview Farm owned by Bryan and Susan Davis and the Smugglers Hill farm owned by Jonathan and Jayne Chase. Both are border farms immediately to the east of Interstate 91 where it crosses the border into Quebec. The 2.2-megawatt turbines would be visible in parts of Derby, Derby Line and Holland as well as in Stanstead, Quebec.
Nick Richardson, with Encore, said there is a lot of emotion across Vermont about large wind projects on ridgelines.
“This is not Sheffield. This is not Lowell. This is two turbines, on two farms. These are your neighbors,” Richardson said.
Tammi Poulin, who lives on Goodall Road across from the Smugglers’ Hill, said she was upset because no one had asked her about the project.
Poulin said she supports wind projects but didn’t want the noise to be so bad she couldn’t sell her property if she wanted to.
Farrell said the review process under Act 248 would address her concerns about noise. The noise directly under the proposed direct drive turbines, a new quieter model, would be similar to the background noise in an office, from printers or a refrigerator, he said.
The turbines in Sheffield are gearbox driven and cause more noise, Farrell said.
And small turbines make more noise than the large, said Nils Behn, director of wind projects for Alteris Renewables, which is working with Encore.
“It’s the difference between a helicopter and a sail plane,” Behn said.
Encore wants to take interested local residents on a bus trip to upstate New York to see similar farm-based wind projects, Richardson said.
Poulin was also upset to hear that the regulatory process under Act 248 is so technical that she probably would have to hire an attorney if she wanted to participate as an intervener before the Public Service Board.
That was the warning from Steve Wright of Craftsbury, who said that opponents had to raise $112,000 so the towns of Albany and Craftsbury could hire an attorney to represent their interests in the Lowell wind case.
“Act 248 process is intensely complicated. Don’t go into that process lightly,” Wright said.
The developers intend to sit down with the Derby select board to work out an annual tax payment for Derby. They have estimated that it could be around $50,000 annually, based on the production of electricity.
Richardson said they plan a “good neighbor” payment to neighboring communities, including Derby Line village, Holland and Stanstead. The payment would be modeled on those that Green Mountain Power would pay to communities within the “view shed” of the Lowell wind project.
Karen Jenne, Derby selectman and Derby Line village clerk, complained that the tax payment wasn’t enough to compensate for the impact.
Select Board Chairman Brian Smith said the most important impact is the revenue from the turbines for the two farms.
Edie Lindblom-Warthin, owner of a bed and breakfast on Herrick Road in Derby, said she didn’t want to lose customers. Herrick Road offers spectacular views.
Another economic impact, aside from the construction spending, will be the tourist attraction to see turbines up close, the developers said. Motorists will be able to drive on Route 5 right between the bases of the two turbines, which would be 3,000 feet apart.
“Tourists can’t climb Lowell and Sheffield to see turbines. They will be coming to see yours,” Farrell said.
Jenne complained that the village did not receive its 45-day notice promptly, because the address was incorrect. She wants Encore to send multiple copies to the town and village so every trustee, selectman and planning commission member.
Jenne also said that a number of people contacted her, because she had already announced her opposition to the project. She said that there are other options for family farms to get income, including methane digesters and solar projects.
Bryan Davis said everyone is “very positive. Not one person has come to our farm or called to oppose it.”
And Farrell said that a solar farm would have to cover every bit of farm field to generate enough power.
The developers have tried to reach out to the mayor of Stanstead to set up a meeting, without success, but will continue to reach out to him, they said.
Derby Line Village Trustee Keith Beadle said Stanstead Mayor Philip Dutil is aware of the project.
Farmer Phil Letourneau, who had hoped to host a third Encore turbine on his farm, told the developers not to worry about the Canadians. He complained that the Canadian government put up large towers with aviation warning lights without concern for those in Vermont who can see it.
Encore did not pursue the Letourneau turbine this year because it was not approved under the state’s special program for small renewable projects.
The 45-day notice and other documents can be found at encoreredevelopment.com/projects/renewable-energy.
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