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Dozens attend Iberdrola meeting about potential wind turbines

GRAFTON ยป The wind was blowing in an ironic fashion on Tuesday.

Meadowsend Timberlands and Iberdrola held a public information meeting at Grafton Ponds to present updates on a proposed Stiles Brook wind project. The dozens of people in attendance and Iberdrola’s professionals alike got a chuckle when presentation boards were blown off their easels multiple times.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first of two scheduled for this week; another was slated for Wednesday evening at the West Townshend Country Store in West Townshend.

The site in question is the roughly 5,000-acre Stiles Brook forest, which is owned by New Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands Ltd. A small portion of the forest lies in Townshend, but the majority is in Windham and Grafton. Only the latter two towns are involved in the proposed turbine project, which would be the first of its kind in Windham County. Meteorological testing is being conducted to determine if constructing the turbines makes economic sense.

Don Hammond, Iberdrola’s regional director of engineering, and Michael Clayton, the Spain-based company’s Eastern permitting and environmental manager, addressed the audience and then the floor was opened to questions from the public.

Hammond spoke about Iberdrola’s on-going evaluation of the data gathered from the three meteorological-testing towers installed on the Stiles Brook site in April 2013, after earning a certificate of public good from the state. He said Stiles Brook is a complex site with multiple features in the terrain.

Clayton spoke about the environmental work and site assessment, much of which is being directed by experts and biologists at the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. He said a raptor migration survey was recently conducted and another will be performed some time between August and October. Clayton explained the surveys are carried out to document species composition and flight patterns of migrating raptors passing through or in the vicinity of the project area. He said raptor is a generic term for all birds of prey.

Clayton told everyone Iberdrola is in the middle of a breeding bird survey, which is performed to document species composition and how breeding birds use the project area. This will be done, he said, through visual observation and the recording of bird calls over several days. He also mentioned microphones were set up in April and May and will remain there through September to record bat activity throughout the site and identify the site’s potential use by protected bat species. Clayton said all these surveys have been coordinated with ANR.

David Acker said he sees some conflict in Iberdrola’s mission statement of responsibly providing clean, renewable energy and the potential to cause harm or death to songbirds, bats, and rare plants. He also said he worries about wind turbines’ effects on human health. He told Iberdrola’s employees that information about negative effects can be found on the Internet.

Carl Hughes asked what the turbines’ impact would be on Green Mountain Power and Jenny Briot, the senior business developer for Iberdrola, said GMP will have an opportunity to purchase power from wind turbine company.

Townshend resident John Evans asked what would happen if the turbines are constructed and later become obsolete or outdated. Briot said Vermont has a strict law about having in place a decommissioning agreement that comes with a fund where money is set aside to dismantle the turbines if the decision is made to do so. Briot also said the turbines would be expected to operate for at least 25 years.

Iberdrola Communications Manager Paul Copleman told the Reformer that construction of the turbines would likely employ roughly 150 people and the structure would have about five permanent on-site employees, though it is difficult to peg specific numbers until it is determined how many turbines, if any, there will be.