NEWARK – Tom Godfray, who owns a home in Newark and lives here part-time, was one of dozens of Newark property owners to turn out for an informational meeting presented by Eolian Renewable Energy on behalf of its partnership with Nordex USA, Inc., a Chicago-based turbine manufacturer, who together are proposing to install four meteorological or MET towers to test for a possible wind project.
Wednesday evening, the developers from Eolian, out of Portsmouth, N.H., rented out the gym/cafeteria at the town’s Newark Street School, where they set up an information fair, with staff members and the three partners from the firm sharing handouts, a video presentation, and graphic boards with photographs of the local topography, illustrating the targeted areas for the MET towers.
Godfray was looking over those photo boards and asked Eolian Chief Executive Officer Jack Kenworthy if the little yellow dots connecting to sites on the photos were the places for the hoped-for wind towers, and Kenworthy told him they were not; the dots showed where photos on the board’s display were in relation to the photographic maps. Godfray asked Kenworthy about the wind towers the firm hopes to build here, specifically, not only the four test towers, and Kenworthy told him that a total of 10 wind towers are what the plans, at this early stage, call for in the town of Newark, while 25 more are possible in Brighton and Ferdinand, for a total of 35 for the project.
About a half hour before the informational event hosted by Eolian began, protesters from Newark and adjoining communities, including East Haven, Sheffield and Sutton and more, started lining up at the entries to the school’s driveway on either side. Fifty signs protesting the wind project were purchased and sold from the trunk of a car for lawn signs, complete with metal stands; and more homemade signs were brought by several town residents.
Newark residents have already made it clear they plan to mount an even louder, stronger battle than Sheffield wind opponents did, but they’ve said it will be peaceful.
Still, the developers called ahead and had two deputy sheriffs from the Caledonia County Sheriffs Department on hand, and when one resident asked what was the device on his belt, the deputy said it was a tazer. There were no incidents, and the developers paid the cost for the security.
“If you’ve ever been to Center Pond and seen it, you wouldn’t want to do it [erect wind towers],” said Vincent Matteis of Lyndonville, who owns a camp in Newark at Center Pond and was joining the protest.
Some of the protesters were talking about the wind project in Lowell. “When you go to Crystal Lake and look up…It’s just awful,” said Matteis, talking to Keith Ballek of Sheffield who was wearing an “Occupy Lowell,” button.
Another poster read, “Health and scale for all Vermonters,” and another stated, “Swindle. Not clean. Not green. Not cheap,” yet another said, “Vermont’s namesake is at stake.”
Newark resident Amber LaFleur said she’s lived in Newark nearly 21 years, and she supports the project. “It’s not hurting anybody in Newark,” she said. “It’s clean. I’ve never seen a bird get hit by one of those suckers,” she said of the wind turbines. “But you know something? They might dig up the dirt this year, it’s going to be green next year, the deer will be back, the moose will be back.”
LaFleur said she has seen hundreds of the turbines in the state of Wyoming. “The antelope were right under them.” she said.
“If it’s like Sheffield and our light bills go down and our taxes go down, I’m all for it,” she said.
Sitting beside LaFleur, Rodrick Rodger, whose mother is a select board member in Newark, added, “I support them.”
Newark Fire Chief Tom D’Ambra attended the event and said he was there to get information on how a possible wind farm in Newark would impact his small, all-volunteer fire department. “I’m here researching safety issues and what the fire department would have to do to accommodate the potential risk,” he said.
Resident Trish Turner-Gill, opposed to the project, asked one of the developers about where the electricity generated by a project here would be sold, and he told her that contracts for power sales are still years down the road. “We can’t sell power when we don’t know how many turbines we’ll have,” said John Soininen, but he assured her less fossil fuels would be used with an increase in wind power generation.
“It’s good to get people facts,” said Soininen. “There is a lot of misinformation.”
Linda Barksdale of Newark was taking handouts from a table where literature was set out about wind energy generally, with facts specific to the hoped-for Brighton/Ferdinand/Newark project.
“I’m not in favor of the project,” said Barksdale.
Seneca Mountain Wind is the project name. It is leasing 12,000 acres of property in the three communities for the project. All of the land, according to a handout, is private property without any conservation restrictions and much of the land has been impacted previously as timberlands. The company has no plans to restrict access for hunting, snowmobiling or other recreational uses. The project anticipates it could generate up to 90 megawatts of wind generation and power as many as 45,000 homes, according to a project overview fact sheet.
The same handout stated that Seneca Mountain Wind “anticipates contributing approximately $1 million annually in taxes and contractual payments across the three towns collectively.”
Every Friday night at 7 p.m. at the school, Newark Neighbors United meets. Tonight, they will host Dr. Ben Luce, assistant professor of physics and sustainability studies at Lyndon State College, who will speak on “Should Vermont Mountaintops Be Used for Utility Scale Wind?” On June 1, the group will show the film “Windfall.”
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