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First Lowell wind shipment reaches destination

LOWELL – The first shipment of turbine components for Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind facility arrived in Lowell early Thursday morning.

And more large truckloads were expected to travel north on Interstate 91 to Orleans and Route 58 over the Lowell mountains to Lowell late in the day as part of 63-megawatt Lowell wind project on the Lowell ridgeline. Once complete, the wind project will be the largest in Vermont.

The drive train was parked off site in Lowell but due to be taken on site Thursday, GMP officials said. And truck loads are expected to begin moving across Orleans County by Monday at the latest from the rail yards in Island Pond.

“We’re excited to begin construction of the turbines after months of project planning and site preparation,” GMP spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure said Thursday. “Today we are one step closer to delivering on our promise to provide the lowest-cost, new renewable energy to Vermonters through the Kingdom Community Wind project.”

Trucks will be transporting turbine parts from now until early September.

The project will consist of 21 Vestas V112 turbines that have a capacity of generating three mega-watts each. The turbines have the capacity to generate enough electricity for more than 24,000 Vermont homes.

GMP said the project would continue to provide an economic boost to the Northeast Kingdom communities, including new jobs and economic activity during the construction phase, and ongoing benefits that include significant property tax payments to the Town of Lowell, tax payments to the state education fund and a Good Neighbor Fund to support five surrounding communities.

The project has employed more than 200 workers directly in construction, more than two-thirds from Vermont, GMP said. Thirteen Vermont employers are actively engaged in building the wind project and more than 100 Vermont-based firms and vendors have been involved.

“The project has provided a major economic infusion to the Northeast Kingdom through the creation of hundreds of direct and indirect jobs resulting from the construction process,” Schnure said.

Community support was critical for the project to move forward and it has been well received by the Lowell community, where 75 percent of voters at a heavily attended March 2010 Town Meeting voted to support the project.

But opponents continue to fight this project and others in the Northeast Kingdom.

Appeals are ongoing before state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board over stormwater control permits and before the Vermont Supreme Court. Civil lawsuits are pending over property lines at the wind site. And trespassers who briefly blockaded traffic on the crane path on the ridgeline in December are due to go to trial for trespassing in August.

The development of mountains in Lowell and Sheffield for wind projects, and plans by another developer for mountains in Brighton, Ferdinand and Newark, have prompted the regional commissioner of the Northeast Kingdom to vote overwhelmingly for a three-year moratorium on industrial-grade wind projects to allow time for a study of the economic and health impacts of wind projects.

Opposition to large turbines, plus delays by the developer, has killed a proposed two-turbine project in Derby.

The Kingdom Community Wind project will be Green Mountain Power’s second wind farm. The company built a six-megawatt wind project of smaller turbines in Searsburg in 1997, which continues to generate energy for Green Mountain Power customers.

“Vermonters have made it very clear that renewable electricity should be included in our energy future,” Schnure said. “Kingdom Community Wind will be a cost-effective, locally produced, carbon-free power source that will play a key role in helping Vermont meet its renewable energy goals moving forward.”

GMP expects the Lowell project to be operational by the end of 2012, in time to secure federal production tax credits worth millions.