LOWELL – It’s taken four years, but the Federal Aviation Administration has finally approved a new system of warning lights for the Lowell wind turbines.
Green Mountain Power, as part of its application for a certificate of public good for the turbines, promised to install radar-activated warning lights on the line of 16 turbines on the Lowell Mountain ridgeline that were erected and commissioned in 2012.
The request for lights that only turn on when aircraft are nearby came from the Green Mountain Club, seeking to preserve the dark night sky that was treasured in this part of northern Vermont.
GMP applied for permission to use special lights with the FAA. But in the meantime, state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board allowed the turbines to go up with regular red warning lights on some of the turbines which are on all the time.
“We committed early in the process that’s something we would do,” said Dorothy Schnure, spokeswoman for GMP.
GMP originally expected to hear back sooner from the FAA about the warning lights but it’s taken until now.
Recently, the FAA approved use of what are called aircraft detection lighting systems as a concept to be used by all large wind turbines that are tall enough to require warning lights in air space, Schnure said.
The state of Vermont is also requiring such a lighting plan for future wind projects as part of the Legislature’s new energy siting bill, the first in the nation to do so, reported Seven Days.
GMP is in the process of submitting a plan to the FAA and is talking to vendors, Schnure said.
Once a vendor is chosen and the system is approved by the FAA, GMP will apply for a certificate of public good for the new warning lights for the Lowell wind project called Kingdom Community Wind.
Schnure anticipates that it could take a year for the application process to play out.
Hikers in the northern mountains next summer might get a chance to appreciate a return to the darkness that the Green Mountain Club seeks.
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