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PSB approves small wind turbine in Derby

DERBY – State utility regulators have approved a small wind mill for a hilly field in Derby, over the objections of a neighbor who worries about noise and the visual impact.

When erected, the windmill will become the fourth of its size in this northern rural part of Derby, near the Canadian border. A fifth is located off Shattuck Hill Road above Lake Memphremagog.

The Vermont Public Service Board on Wednesday granted a certificate of public good for a 140-foot-tall windmill to Michele Judd of Herrick Road in Derby.

The small turbine with blades of 23 feet in diameter will go up not far from a similar-sized turbine owned by her father, Mike. The turbine has the capacity to generate 10 kilowatts of electricity.

Neighbor Edith Lindblom-Warthin, who owns a bed and breakfast on Herrick Road, opposed the project in letters to the PSB and to the Derby Planning Commission.

Her home and business is within 1,000 feet of the existing Judd turbine and closer to the site for the second Judd turbine. She asked for a hearing on the proposed second Judd turbine over noise and aesthetics.

The PSB considered her concerns but found that she did not raise “significant” issues about the turbine, voting to issue a certificate of public good without further investigation or a hearing.

The board took at face value the developer’s reports that the proposed turbine, a Bergey Excel 10 kilowatt model, “has been shown to produce very little sound over ambient levels,” according to the board’s order.

However, the board did impose one condition about noise. If the board receives a complaint of excessive noise from Lindblom-Warthin, the board could conduct a site visit and possibly hold a hearing. If the noise is “potentially excessive, the board may require Michele Judd to perform ambient and operating noise level measurements to determine whether the project is in compliance with the noise level standard” set by the board.

The board rejected Lindlbom-Warthin’s arguments over the visual and property value impacts, citing the “undue” adverse effects standard set in the past.

“While the proposed turbine may be visible from certain vantage points, Ms. Lindblom-Warthin has not shown that the project would have an adverse impact on aesthetics. Even if we were to conclude that the project would have an adverse aesthetic impact, Ms Lindblom-Warthin’s comments do not raise a significant issue because they do not show how the impact would be undue,” the PSB stated in the order.

“There must be facts showing that the proposed project is shocking or offensive, violates a clear community standard, or that the applicant has failed to take reasonably available mitigating steps,” the PSB concluded.

“Turning to comments regarding noise, Ms. Lindblom-Warthin’s comments similarly fail to show how the potential impact of the proposed project would be undue,” the board stated, but giving her the chance to produce evidence that the turbine is noisier than the developer promises.

As for the property value impacts, the board noted that her comments don’t raise significant issues, the board stated. The wind turbine was reviewed as it affects the public good rather than the interests of private landowners, the board noted in a footnote to the order.

The decision is based on state statutes that “encourage private investment in renewable energy resources, stimulate the economic growth of the state and enhance the continued diversification of energy sources used in Vermont,” the board stated.

The project will provide electricity for the property owner and extra will be fed into the grid.

That’s encouraged under state statutes, the board concluded.

Local Reaction

Michelle Judd applied for the certificate with the PSB on May 25. The PSB gave parties like the town of Derby and neighbors 30 days to comment on the project.

On June 22, Lindblom-Warthin sent her letter.

On July 2, the planning commission discussed the project. According to press reports, the planning commission voted in a split decision to recommend that the select board not intervene in the PSB proceedings on the project.

Wind turbines of both small and large size have dominated discussion in Derby and neighboring communities in the past year, ever since a developer sought to put up two industrial-grade turbines on two border farms in Derby near Derby Line, Holland and Stanstead, Quebec.

Over time, the proposal became highly controversial, and in the end the developer was unable to meet critical state deadlines for preferential electricity rates to continue the project.