Let me cut to the chase: I strongly support the Select Boards in Castleton, Hubbardton, West Rutland and Pittsford that have chosen to oppose the proposed Grandpa’s Knob wind project and I stand with my many Rutland County neighbors who agree with their decisions.
On the surface, this might be surprising given my 25 years’ experience in the electric power industry with a growing strength of conviction that our country needs to move to more sustainable energy resources.
Furthermore I generally believe that wind power can be a valuable resource given a suitable location and I have previously advised developers on projects. There are two big picture reasons why I believe it is the right policy to oppose this project and ask the legislature for at least a temporary moratorium on new ridgetop wind projects in Vermont.
First, driving large-scale wind projects in Vermont is the most fundamentally flawed state renewable energy policy in the nation.
As I have written in previous commentaries and testified before legislative energy committees, the Vermont SPEED program presents the illusion that Vermont’s utilities are purchasing clean renewable energy for Vermonters. In reality, this Vermont policy does not result in any net increase in renewable energy or any net benefit to the global climate.
The reason for this is that through a legislative sleight of hand, aimed at saving money but not the environment, the Vermont SPEED program sets an aggressive goal for the Vermont utilities to sign long-term contracts with Vermont renewable energy projects. But then Vermont law allows these same utilities to register these projects, and sell their associated renewable energy credits, to out of state renewable programs (largely in Massachusetts and Connecticut).
This law is unlike any policy in our neighboring states. As a result of this, these projects do not produce any new renewable energy beyond what these other states already required. And once they are registered out of state, it is illegal for a Vermont utility to even claim that they are purchasing clean or renewable energy for Vermont customers.
To put it bluntly, most serious energy policy analysts understand that the Vermont law driving the Grandpa’s Knob project is a “sham” renewable energy policy.
Secondly, as I have argued previously, Vermont is in an enviable energy position in that our energy challenges are quite modest and easily manageable. We have both been a leader in energy efficiency and have long-term access to significant low carbon hydropower and as a result we are at a significantly better starting point than most other states in the nation.
Importantly, unlike California, the Midwest, Texas or the Northeastern Canadian Provinces, Vermont has a very limited wind resource that almost exclusively exists at higher elevations on our ridgetops.
Current industrial scale wind towers have also increased in size to approximately 400 feet tall. Constructing these massive towers in the sensitive environmental conditions of our ridgetops raises both environmental and land use questions which have not been adequately addressed.
Given Vermont’s small scale, readily manageable energy challenges, and the limitations of this technology in Vermont there clearly is no urgent need for this project. As a former four-term alderman who has struggled with these local challenges, it could not be clearer to me that these local select boards have got it right and that failed legislative policy is largely responsible for this controversy.
Citizens in Rutland County concerned with this project should ensure that their legislators hear this clearly.
KEVIN B. JONES
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