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First Green Mountain Power wind turbine raised on Lowell Mountain

The first of 21 wind turbines for Green Mountain Power’s Kingdom Community Wind project was erected last week, and it has already weathered a protest and an unexpected traffic accident.

The wind farm is is expected to be complete by the end of 2012, if the winter weather permits.

But about two weeks ago, dozens of protestors temporarily blocked trucks carrying equipment from driving to the Lowell Mountain site. Then three days later, a truck carrying turbine equipment tipped over on a highway.

Critical reaction to the project and its first turbine tower remains heated.

“This is a monument to terrible decision-making by those who are in the business of making decisions about Vermont’s energy and landscape future,” said Steve Wright, a former commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. He argued that the project did little to combat climate change, inflicted “hideous environmental damage,” and would not be a very reliable energy source.

Wright helped organize the protests on July 16, but couldn’t say for sure whether future protests are planned. Although he said that there are no actions in the works right now, he added: “I wouldn’t be surprised if some people took it on their own to make a statement.”

Green Mountain Power spokesman Robert Dostis defended the controversial project, and he said that protestors provided input in the public regulatory process, through which GMP eventually secured a certificate of public good and required permits.

“After the Public Service Board viewed all the testimony and comments, they decided that this project is in the public good,” said Dostis. “The sooner we can get it online, the sooner customers can benefit from our power.”

Dostis emphasized the property taxes GMP would pay to the town of Lowell, an estimated $535,000 in the first year of operation, along with annual $150,000 Good Neighbor Fund payments for 10 years, split between the five nearby communities of Craftsbury, Albany, Westfield, Eden, and Irasburg.

As for the turbine equipment damaged in the July 19 accident, Dostis clarified that construction wouldn’t be delayed as a result, since the company had stored enough identical components to replace the piece, pending a full replacement by the manufacturer.

Dostis said that the Public Service Board had decided that concerns about lower property values as a result of less attractive views “were not sufficient to undermine the importance of this project.”

Wright also expressed concerns about the environmental damage done to the mountains and nearby environment.

Wright penned two op-eds on the project last year, one in June 2011 for VTDigger, and one when Kingdom Community Wind first broke ground in September 2011, for the New York Times.