LOWELL, Vt. – The wind turbines along the ridgeline in Lowell were dusted in snow Tuesday and getting to their bases meant loading into a giant Snow Cat.
“It is good to just see it, to hear the noise levels,” said Scott Johnstone of the Vt. Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission.
Members of Vermont’s Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission made the trip as part of effort to see first-hand the potential pros and cons of harnessing the natural resource and where to put turbines.
“All that can come to life for you even if a snow-covered day like now, so it’s just good to get your boots on the ground and understand this,” Johnstone said.
The group was formed by Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, and is charged with assessing best practices for siting electric generation projects across the state. It started the day by touring a similar site in Sheffield.
“We learned a lot about the technology, we talked to folks that were there when the construction was going on the explained the monitoring program that they’re currently doing and the results they have seen from that,” said Jan Eastman of the Vt. Energy Generation Siting Policy Commission.
Eastman says her group is considering a number of possible recommendations.
“Whether there are some things that we should help speed along and whether there are some projects that are so large that we need to have something in between the policies we have from the Legislature and the department’s plan and the actual application process,” Eastman said.
Limited space aboard the snow craft only left seats for a few members of the general public. Lesley Morey of Windham said she wanted to go along with turbines in the works for her hometown.
“I have been hoping to be able to go. I’ve seen one set of wind towers over in Leominster and I wanted to see how close these were to homes and the town itself,” Morey said.
The commission is also charged with looking at how to handle dispute resolution involving projects that often draw heated protests from all sides.
“The challenge for us is to find the Vermont way to accomplish those goals, which is to move to a more renewable platform and do it in a way that’s in keeping with the splendor of this beautiful state we all live in,” Johnstone said.
The commission is slated to share its findings and possibly suggestions with the governor the Legislature by April 30.
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