SEARSBURG, Vt. – After nearly a decade in development, Vermont’s next big wind project could break ground by the end of the summer.
The proposed 15-turbine Deerfield project is located in Readsboro and Searsburg, adjacent to the existing Searsburg turbines. It would be the first wind project on U.S. Forest Service land. Iberdrola, the Spanish developer, received state approval back in 2009, but legal wrangling delayed construction.
One of the final hurdles is a revised agreement on how to mitigate critical bear habitat. The proposed agreement would allow the company to begin construction before acquiring equivalent habitat. In exchange, the state will get $1 million to buy upward of 144 acres, and the company will help fund ongoing bear research.
Longtime opponents say the deal is not acceptable.
“They’re allowing them to buy up the rest of the land after the project is built; that’s not OK. This is turning our regulatory process into a joke. Oh well, they got their CPG, so they have a right to move forward. They do not have a right to move forward if they haven’t met the board’s conditions,” said Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
“We’re going to do a lot more than 144 acres as part of our $1 million contribution to the project, so I’m really pleased with the partners we’re working with to do more than the bare minimum required by the CPG,” said Tim Seck of Iberdrola Renewables.
Iberdrola on Wednesday asked the Public Service Board to expedite their work, saying a decision any later than next month may jeopardize ordering and installing the turbines next year.
Iberdrola is also the same company behind plans to build 28 wind turbines on ridgelines in Grafton and Windham. Those towns are expected to weigh in with a vote this fall.
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