September 11, 2013

Northeast Kingdom: wind developer pressed on plans

September 11, 2013 |

FERDINAND – The Unified Towns and Gores Board of Governors pressed a wind developer about when he was going to reveal his plans for Ferdinand on Monday night.

John Soininen, vice president of development for Eolian, which has pitched the project called Seneca Mountain Wind, said delays in receiving a permit to build the four meteorological test towers from the Vermont Public Service Board have held the company up in getting a proposal to the UTGs.

The developers recently secured a Certificate of Public Good from the PSB allowing them to erect four nearly 200-foot high meteorological towers to gather data for a possible wind project – two in Brighton, one in Ferdinand and one in Newark.

Soinenen said he expects to present his plan for the wind farm in Ferdinand to the board this fall, possibly as soon as next month.

“Construction of the Seneca MET [test] tower started last Friday and will continue through next week, subject to weather conditions,” Soininen said in an email to the newspaper on Tuesday.

“This is the same tower that was previously installed in this location prior to being taken down in 2011.” As for the approved towers in Brighton and Newark he said, “At this time no decisions have been made about schedules for erecting other MET towers.” Soininen said he intended to keep the boards in Newark and Brighton informed of plans for the MET tower construction there.

The UTG board has said publicly it will remain neutral on any would-be wind project proposed in Ferdinand until they hear from property owners. The UTG board has said for the record that once a proposal is in hand from the developers, the proposal will go public and taxpayers and residents will be asked for their input.

Pam Arborio, president of Brighton Ridge Protectors, was at the meeting. In an email Tuesday she said, “[Soininen] reiterated that they need data for financial backers, hand in hand with the statement they may need up to five years of information.”

Initially, the project envisioned wind turbines from Newark to Brighton to Ferdinand, but residents in Brighton and Newark have mounted strong resistance, and both towns have revised their town plans to codify their opposition.

An appeal of the permit for the test towers is being mounted by Brighton and Newark, with support from the citizen group Newark Neighbors United, which last week asked the governor to join in the appeal but have not heard back from him yet.

SMW has not publicly said they are withdrawing from the two towns, but efforts have been more focused on Ferdinand, where Soininen has paid several visits this year in person. Information supplied to ISO-NE, the regional power grid authority, shows that SMW is considering a smaller project than originally planned as well.

Jack Kenworthy, the CEO of Eolian/SMW, said in an email, “The record is clear that SMW itself has made a commitment not to locate turbines in any Town (Brighton, Newark and the UTG) without the support of a Town vote once it has formally presented a project plan.”

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