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Questions still being asked about Swanton Wind issues

Our community has taken a great interest in the proposed Swanton industrial wind project.

In order to evaluate any proposed project we need to focus on the facts and the benefits and impacts of this proposed project.

Here are some facts and some additional questions about this proposed project.

Swanton Wind would hurt Vermont rate payers. As reported on 7 Oct 2015 in Seven Days, Green Mountain Power, Vermont Electric Co-op, Burlington Electric Department and Washington Electric Co-op have all joined in asking the Public Service Board to reject the Swanton industrial wind PURPA request, which, they argue, would cost them more than other power sources on the market. “We don’t see how this project fits in,” said Mary Powell, chief executive officer of Green Mountain Power. “We are in really good shape for our customers with wind.”

Ditto Vermont Electric Cooperative. According to director of government affairs Andrea Cohen, VEC has no plans to buy new wind-generated energy. Nor does the Burlington Electric Department, “We’re in a similar position to what GMP is,” echoed Ken Nolan, BED’s manager of power resources. “In general, we don’t need any more supply, from wind or other sources, for the next five years,” he said.

According to Vermont Department of Public Service, living near an industrial wind site is “indicative of a significant impairment of quality of life.” In response to a 2 Nov 2015 Motion for Relief filed by residents who live 3,800 ft from the Georgia Mountain industrial wind project the Vermont Department of Public Service wrote the following: “it finds the issues raised in the Motion to be credible and serious. The Department has no reason to think that the sleep disturbances and other health impacts cited are fabricated or exaggerated. Nor does the Department have cause to question the veracity of the range or severity of their health symptoms. The same can be said of the complaints the Department has received from other residents living near the GMCW and other commercial wind sites…. It is…indicative of a significant impairment of the quality of life for some nearby residents.”

Significant impairment of quality of life is why the Georgia Board of Civil Authority lowered the accessed property values of residents who live close to the Georgia Mountain industrial wind project.

The Swanton industrial wind project proposes to put more and larger turbines much closer to the families who live on Rocky Ridge. The Department of Public Service states there is a “significant impairment of the quality of life” for residents within 3,800 feet.

How would they characterize the quality of life for the 34 families that would be within 2,500 ft of seven 499-foot tall wind turbines that are proposed for Rocky Ridge?

The current noise standard written by the Public Service Board says that the turbine noise outside your open bedroom window, averaged over an hour, should not exceed 45 dBA. This means that you could start up a vacuum cleaner (70 dBA) every five minutes and you would still meet the noise standard. For comparison, Denmark’s noise standard is not to exceed 37 dBA at night, which is much more restrictive because Vermont’s standard is an average measured over an hour. A recently conducted Canadian Health study found “people who are exposed to greater than 40 dBA” will be “extremely or highly annoyed” and the study connects annoyance and health. The Canadian Health study states, “wind turbine noise annoyance was found to be statistically related to several self-reported health effects including, but not limited to, blood pressure, migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, scores on the PSQI, and perceived stress.”

We are also concerned about the impact on water quality of Lake Champlain and Fairfield Pond.

The developer states that they will clear cut 39 acres of forest on Rocky Ridge. A clear cut and disturbed soil on a ridge line means potential erosion.

The developer has stated the project will create 9 acres of impervious surface on Rocky Ridge. For reference, the Walmart parking lot in St Albans is 7 acres. Would a Walmart sized impervious surface and a 39 acre clear cut on a ridge line pose a threat to water quality in the lake or Fairfield Pond?

Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

We will keep asking questions of the developer and his consultants to get him to understand our concerns his proposed industrial wind project poses to the quality of life of the residents on Rocky Ridge, the rate payers, and protecting the water quality of the Lake and Fairfield Pond.

Brian Dubie