A proposal to erect four temporary meteorological towers to help monitor wind in remote sections of Essex and Caledonia counties has triggered mixed reactions among some of the residents in the area.
Seneca Mountain Wind LLC, based in Portsmouth, N.H., sent advance notice dated March 6 describing a proposal for four test towers in the towns of Brighton, Ferdinand and Newark. The four towers are described as temporary meteorological towers (“METS”).
After the 30 day advance notice period has passed, Seneca Mountain Wind LLC will apply for a Certificate of Public Good (“CPG”) to install and operate the MET towers for a five-year period. The notice was signed by Jack Kenworthy, on behalf of Seneca Mountain Wind, LLC.,
The Brighton Select Board met Wednesday night and, according to Municipal Assistant Joel Cope, had a “broad ranging discussion” on the topic of the MET towers and wind power in general. While the selectmen took no formal action, according to Cope, the selectmen have directed Cope to forward a letter drafted by the Brighton Planning Board. The letter expresses concern over the planned MET towers.
The letter states “wind towers as proposed by Seneca Wind LLC may not be appropriate for this area,” adding, “This area of the state contains some of the most sensitive and fragile natural areas in the state, as classified in a 1990 report done for the state Fish and Wildlife Dept.” The letter continues, “The Planning Commission sees little of value or need in regard to this project.” It was sent April 3 to Kenworthy as well as Newark, the Unified Towns and Gores of Essex County, the Vermont Public Service Board, the Dept. of Public Service, the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Northeastern Vermont Development Agency and Northern Vermont Resource Conservation and Development Association.
According to Cope, the selectmen may decide to send a separate letter to Seneca Mountain Wind on behalf of the board as well. The selectmen’s letter, according to Cope, will also express concern over the proposed temporary towers.
A selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday in Newark also included a discussion of the proposed MET towers, according to an unapproved version of the minutes. Jack Kenworthy and Travis Bullard, representing Seneca Mountain Wind, attended the meeting at the invitation of Mike Channon, chairman of the Newark board.
Channon said a representative from Seneca Wind had called and offered to come to the meeting “to introduce himself.” The matter was not on the warning and not everyone thought Kenworthy and Bullard’s presence was appropriate.
According to the draft minutes, planning commission member Mark Whitworth said he thought “it was highly inappropriate that they were at the meeting.” According to the minutes, “The Planning Commission had arranged for them to come to one of their meetings next week and everyone was working hard to get informed and educated so they could ask good questions and he felt that their showing up at this meeting hijacked the meeting for next week.”
Eolian Wind, the parent company of Seneca Wind, is scheduled to meet with the Newark Planning Commission at 6:30 p.m. on April 11 at the Newark School.
At the Newark meeting, Kenworthy said MET towers will generally give results in around six months to one year, but they won’t go forward without one year’s worth of data.
Each of the proposed towers would be 190 feet tall. One tower, designated the “Brighton Tower,” would be erected at the same site where a MET tower was previously installed. A second tower would be erected on a site north of Bull Mountain in Brighton. A third tower, designated “Seneca Mountain Tower,” would be located in Ferdinand at the same location as a previous MET tower. The fourth tower is designated “Hawk Rock” tower and would be installed in Newark. All four towers will be either tubular steel or lattice type.
On March 23, the Newark Planning Commission sent a letter to Kenworthy taking him to task, stating “The fact that you do not see how your project could impact these natural resources is a great concern to us.”
There is support for the proposed MET towers or plans for a wind farm. Stephen Osborne, who lives on Lake Street in Island Pond, said Brighton Municipal Assistant Joel Cope and the Planning Commission “don’t speak for everyone in Island Pond.” He said the only people who are counted are “certain people who hang around downtown” and that the residents such as himself who tend to stay at home and not speak out support the wind farm. He explained that he retired as an employee of the Canadian National Railroad and that he has seen lost economic opportunities and lost jobs in Island Pond. He said, “Most of the people support the proposal,” adding, “I have nothing against it. There’ll be some jobs there.”
Another landowner, David Jacobs, from East Haven, is more cautious. “I think they should wait and see what Lowell and Sheffield wind farms actually produce and how much electricity they turn out.” He said he thinks the effects of a wind farm “on the ecology and the animals,” should be measured and the question posed should be, “Are they worth it?” His advice is, “Don’t be in such a hurry.”
Jack Kenworthy said “we think the site is suitable.” He added data from the two previous wind measurement towers tell him, “the site looks strong.” He said the proposed area appears to have, “good winds and good roads.” He said that the wind farms will sign long term power contracts with utilities that will be competitive” and, “in our view will be a key component of a diversified supply” of local, renewable power.
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