The developer of the proposed Grandpa’s Knob Windpark in Rutland County has canceled easement agreements with surrounding landowners.
The developer, Reunion Power, sent letters to the towns of Pittsford and West Rutland last week saying it had terminated access agreements with property owners. The two towns are located on the east side of the proposed 20-turbine, 50 megawatt project to span Pittsford Ridge.
It’s unclear whether the Grandpa’s Knob project will proceed. Reunion Power, which has offices in Manchester Center and New Jersey, did not return calls seeking comment Monday.
Pittsford Town Manager John Haverstock said some of the town’s residents worry mountaintop development will harm the area’s unique wildlife habitat and natural beauty.
In an April 2012 letter, the Agency of Natural Resources said the “site has exceptional ecological values, and that a commercial wind energy project constructed and operated at this location will result in an undue adverse effect on the natural environment and cannot be mitigated.”
Annette Smith, executive director Vermonters for a Clean Environment, a group opposing ridgeline wind projects, said the canceling of the easements means the developer would have to start from scratch to move the project forward.
The proposed project, which is located on the same mountaintop where Vermont’s first utility wind turbine once stood, marks the most recent setback to wind power in the state.
The Seneca Mountain Wind project is the latest proposed large-scale ridgeline wind project in the Northeast Kingdom. Last month, the Unified Towns and Gores in Essex County voted against a proposed 60-megawatt wind project in Ferdinand.
The developer of the project, Eolian Renewable Energy, of Portsmouth, N.H., is deciding what to do next.
“I can’t say yes, we’re moving forward with the project. I can’t say no, we’re not moving forward with the project,” Seneca Wind Project Manager John Soininen said Monday.
He said the state needs to set clear guidance for energy development. When the state decides what it wants, he said, “we will certainly come out with a press release.”
Ninety percent of Vermont’s energy needs must supplied by renewable sources by the year 2050, according to the state’s Comprehensive Energy Plan.
The goal offers little guidance for developers, Soininen said.
“If Vermont, in fact, wants to get anywhere even slightly close to 90 percent renewable by 2015, then projects like Seneca Mountain Wind project are going to have to move forward,” he said. “That’s a simple fact.”
Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, chair of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said local concerns over these project sends a poor message to renewable energy developers and, as a result, companies will likely look to other states to set up projects.
“I think that were just in a period of adjustment in terms of build-out of any of the new (energy) generation sources,” he said. “Not just wind. You’re seeing some heartburn over solar as well. And we certainly have heartburn when it comes to biomass and even hydro.”
He said he doesn’t expect the resistance to last forever. Developers and utilities will adapt to consumer demand, he said.
Iberdrola Renewables, a company headquartered in Spain, has placed three meteorological (MET) towers – two in Windham and one in Grafton – on land owned by the New Hampshire forestry company Meadowsend Timberlands. If the site is used for a wind project, it would be Windham County’s first utility-scale wind project.
The Deerfield Wind project received a certificate of public good for a 45-megawatt wind project. The project would place up to 24 wind turbines on about 80 acres of Green Mountain National Forest land in Searsburg and Readsboro.
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