For four years, residents of Grafton and Windham have been hearing plans to put Vermont’s largest wind farm on the ridge between their towns. Now, it looks like that talk is getting closer to reality.
It seems to be the topic of each week’s select board meeting. Grafton’s board even elected a brand new member to help speed along the process of a townwide vote. But residents say the town remains divided on the issue.
After hearing 5,000 acres of ridgeline between Grafton and Windham could become home to Vermont’s largest wind farm to date, Gina Cunningham wanted answers.
“It’s awful, we were shocked to hear what’s going on,” said Cunningham.
Cunningham and her family are annual visitors to the small town of Grafton. She says an industrial wind farm would ruin the town’s quaint charm that attracts tourists and second homeowners.
“We’ve been coming up to the area, especially the Grafton area, for the past 20 years. Honestly, if it ever went through, we would probably never come up to this area again,” said Cunningham.
A number of residents are against this wind farm, proposed by multinational corporation Iberdrola, also known as Avangrid Renewables locally. The company plans 28, nearly 500-foot tall wind turbines. While many here are for natural energy, they think the project is much too big for Vermont, especially Grafton.
“We are a community that lives through our visitors, we’re a tourist community, and what we’re selling is an 1801 inn and a town that was established,” said Carol Lind, Grafton Woodlands Group co-director.
The group was started by residents to spread awareness and education of the negative impacts the project could have.
“We don’t see any pros, we feel environmentally, it’s a disaster. Ecological disaster, for birds, for bats, we’d be losing so many acres of our forest,” said Lind.
Lind adds years of construction, noise and sight pollution, lost property value and increased flooding as cons. But others in town say these aren’t worth worrying over.
“It will not hurt Grafton, this is what we need,” said Kent Armstrong, Grafton resident.
Armstrong says alternative energy is necessary, and he thinks because of Grafton’s small population, it’s actually a good place for a wind farm.
“You might see a blade. Seriously? Why’s that going to put anyone off from coming here? To see a blade in the distance of miles,” said Armstrong.
And some remain open to the idea of negotiating with Iberdrola before the project takes off.
“They’re offering to include us in the process of developing that arrangement and I think for us to not go through that process is foolish,” said Kathy Scott, Windham.
While the town of Windham has written a letter to the company asking to immediately suspend the project, Grafton residents will vote on the issue come November and Iberdrola says either way, they’ll listen to residents’ requests.
“We remain committed to abiding by the vote of the registered voters in Windham and Grafton, we have made that commitment,” said Paul Copleman, Avangrid Renewables/Iberdrola communications manager.
Residents against the project say they simply fear this project is premature, and down the road, there may be better technology to serve the purpose, but those for it say they believe if the vote doesn’t pass and Iberdrola doesn’t build the wind farm, someone else simply will.
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