Eolian developer, Town of Newark, present at Governor’s Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission hearings
The Governor’s Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission, appointed this fall, has met several times in Montpelier, including Thursday, to continue taking testimony from the state’s citizens, energy developers, utilities, and more. On Thursday, the commission heard from Newark and considered a potential wind project with sights on Brighton-Ferdinand-Newark in the Northeast Kingdom.
The project, in its early stage with only four meteorological or MET towers, a precursor for a wind project, proposed at present and awaiting a decision for a Certificate of Public Good by the Vermont Public Service Board, has been filed by Seneca Mountain Wind, LLC, who is partnered by Eolian Renewable Energy, LLC of Portsmouth, NH and Chicago-based turbine manufacturer Nordex, USA.
Newark planning commission member Mark Whitworth attended the Commission’s meeting in Montpelier, offering as his first slide the vision statement from the Newark Town Plan, recently amended and passed by a 3-1 margin to include language that states a majority of Newark property owners oppose industrial wind locating there.
The northernmost town in Caledonia County, population 581, has, Whitworth presented, an all-volunteer select board and planning commission, no full-time employees, one paved road and no commerce, no industry, no traffic lights. “We like it that way,” a bulleted item at the bottom of the second slide made clear.
On slides titled “Our” Project, Whitworth told the Commission that “Newark, Brighton and Ferdinand (have been) targeted by an out-of-state developer,” who has “leased land from out-of-state property owners,” and that while the developer now seeks to erect four MET towers, they have their hopes set on the three communities to eventually install 35-40 500′ high industrial wind turbines.
Whitworth noted the call by the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) for a moratorium on industrial wind, and filing problems by the developer. Whitworth said there is not a need for electricity to be generated in Vermont, and said that in 2013, according to experts, the Northeast Kingdom will generate 35 percent more electricity than it uses already.
“It serves no purpose other than to make the NEK a wind ghetto,” said Whitworth.
In his presentation, Whitworth told the Commission, “This project will enrich a few at the expense of many,” including: “Wildlife habitat, tourism, public health, communities, property values, ratepayers, and taxpayers.”
Whitworth asked for the Commission to recommend a suspension of wind applications “until legislature has a chance to act upon your recommendations.”
At the Nov. 30 meeting of the Commission, a week earlier, one of the developers presenting to the Commission in Montpelier was John Soininen, of Eolian Renewable Energy. Soininen, the co-founder and vice president of development for Eolian, said, “We have evaluated numerous sites in Vermont in detail over the last several years … To date we have not found any other sites that we believe to be suitable for development presently.”
The company uses “superior desktop GIS analysis to prescreen ‘project attributes,’” Soininen presented. They “focus on technical fundamentals to develop efficient projects,” including: wind resource, land without conservation, zoning or other development restrictions; sufficient land area to provide appropriate setbacks; larger parcels; fewer landowners; proximity to existing infrastructure, he stated.
On a slide titled, “Eolian’s Overview of Permitting in Vermont,” the company stated the following: “We are encouraged by a clear articulation of the need for extensive new renewable generation in official documents.” They go on, stating, “We are encouraged by the clear public support that we see from the majority of Vermonters – both through surveys performed to determine public opinion and in our conversations with Vermonters directly,” the firm stated. “Energy is a necessary industry and siting generation facilities requires a state perspective,” the Eolian presentation noted.
“Local views should be considered, as is currently the case, but can not frustrate State goals and objectives,” they stated for the record. On the strengths and weaknesses of public participation, Eolian stated, “Public input is important but adds significant cost to the development process which adds to the cost to ratepayers.”
A comment made by Eolian regarding environmental issues had locals in Newark balking this week, following Eolian’s statement that, “Some environmental policies and regulations must be reviewed and re-evaluated,” specifically, “preventing any impacts to bear habitat associated with renewable energy development while allowing bear hunting is a fundamental disconnect,” the company.
Whitworth, of Newark’s planning commission, was at the presentation, and said later, “I still can’t get over the bear hunting thing. I guess we should let Eolian destroy our deer and moose habitat as well… we’re just going to kill them anyway. And since fishing is permitted, why would we want to preserve our rivers and lakes?”
In response to some Newark residents’ interpretation of the bear habitat comment entered into the record last week, Soininen on Friday, stated, “It is not our position that hunting of bears should cease – not at all. We recognize that hunting bears is important to Vermonters and we support continued hunting for all legal species on property that we lease throughout New England, including Vermont. For the Seneca Mountain Wind Project both the landowners and Seneca have stated publicly that the lands surrounding the wind farm would remain open for hunters as well as other activities. What the statement reflects is our belief that wind projects can be sited and operated with minimal impacts to bear habitat.”
Citizen intervenors, in a presentation Nov. 30, noted that, “Participating in the PSB Section 248 process is an unbudgeted-for full time job that overwhelms small towns, volunteer boards and local residents,” the citizens’ portion stated for the Commission, stating further, “In the areas of East Haven, Londonderry, Sheffield, Albany, Craftsbury, Lowell, Georgia Mountain and Springfield, citizens have spent over $1.7 million on PSB intervention.”
Also presenting on Nov. 30 to the state Commission was Encore Redevelopment, LLC, of Burlington, who cited “over-reliance of public comment/intervention,” as something that “can bog down process. They cited the Derby Line Wind Project as a case in point, stating that, the “Project (was) stopped by misinformation and unsubstantiated, non-scientifically based claims from a few individuals before the full CPG process could be completed,” and noting, “Smaller developers cannot withstand the time and costs of having to defend against misinformation (and) non-scientifically based claims,” and that the “Result is absence of smaller community-scale projects.”
The Commission’s final informational meeting is set for Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. in the Pavilion Auditorium in Montpelier, and will “pick up the discussion from the Commission’s last session regarding other states’ energy generation siting processes,” according to a press release on the DPS website. All meeting times and information is posted on the Commission’s website, www.sitingcommission.vermont.gov/home (http://www.sitingcommission.vermont.gov/home).
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