READSBORO- Star Wind LLC, a manufacturer of small-scale windmills, which has recently relocated to Vermont from New Jersey, is hoping to erect a turbine on plots it owns in Readsboro and Wardsboro. Jason Day, founder of the company, says that the goal is to create demonstration sites in each town to compliment the one at the company’s manufacturing facility in East Dorset just off Route 7.
According to Day, while his company is hoping to set up windmills in Readsboro and Wardsboro that will generate power that can be sold, his company shouldn’t be confused with large-scale windmill electrical generation companies such as Iberdrola, which is planning on starting the construction of the massive Deerfield Wind project in Readsboro soon. “The sites in Wardsboro and Readsboro will generate electricity for sale but we are a manufacturing company. The Star Wind turbines are made in Vermont, with real Yankee engineering, and we will be hiring. We make small turbines for individual ownership that produce between 5 kilowatts and 45 kilowatts. The wind turbines we make can help an individual Vermont landowner, farmer or business owner to make their own electricity and potentially make some income.”
Day said that the state of Vermont was very supportive of small-scale wind projects and wind power in general, which is what drew him to Vermont from New Jersey. “The Public Service Board wants to stimulate local energy projects. Besides concerns about global warming, $1 billion in oil, natural gas, and electricity is leaving the state. That revenue can be folded back into the state economy if it is not lost. Small wind may help prevent some of that.”
As an example of the supportive regulatory climate that he said helped draw him to the state, Day cited the PSB’s proposed rule changes pertaining to construction and operation of net-metering systems. Net metering allows homeowners and others who have relatively small electrical generating systems to get a credit from the power company for the electricity that the homeowner generates. “It looks like, on January 1, 2017, wind turbine systems below 15 kilowatts will be classified as “category I” and for the first time will be given the same 10-day application that has been given to solar photovoltaics (PV) for years.” Day said that if the proposed rules go through, buyers of his smaller, wind-powered electrical generating systems would still need to comply with some siting and noise restrictions, but that he considered those restrictions very fair, and overall less difficult to overcome than what larger windmills would need to comply with. He said in contrast, that systems that generate more than 15 kilowatts would would still need to go through a process that could take many months, and require the input of the Public Service Board, Department of Public Service, local planning commission, local selectboard, ANR, and abutting neighbors.
According to Day, the PSB is also likely to start providing potential purchasers of small-scale windmills the same incentives as solar has enjoyed in the past. “Importantly, small wind systems will be given the same incentives as solar PV. The incentive for systems between 15 kilowatts and 150 kilowatts will also be the same for solar PV and small wind systems. This makes an even playing field for the two technologies.”
According to the nonprofit Vermont Electrical Power Producers, “In 2005, the Vermont General Assembly established programs to encourage the development of renewable energy resources in Vermont as well as the purchase of renewable power by the state’s electric distribution utilities.” Instead of earning a credit for their electricity via net metering, owners of small electrical generating systems can choose to get a return on their investment by signing up for what is called the “standard offer.” This legal arrangement allows small-scale generators to sell their electricity for cash.
According to Day, the projects in Readsboro and Wardsboro are intended as standard offer projects. In Readsboro the plan is for a 24-kilowatt generating system on Bailey Hill Road. In Wardsboro, the “Tomlinson project” would consist of two wind turbines, one which would generate 50 kilowatts and the other 100.
However, while Star Wind has received the approval to sell electricity generated, before that can happen, the company has to receive permission from the PSB to build the structures, and its original applications for the Wardsboro and Readsboro projects were rejected as ‘deficient’ by the board on August 5. According to the PSB order, this was because insufficient data related to noise levels was included in the applications. The PSB gave Star Wind until August 19 to provide a detailed explanation, and gave people wanting to comment on those explanations until September 2 to file any concerns or thoughts on the matter.
Day said he was confident this hurdle would be passed easily. “It is not a problem. We will meet and exceed any sound ordinance they require.”
Debra Pavin, an abutting landowner of the proposed project in Readsboro, has filed a request with the PSB for a public hearing. In her request, Pavin expressed concern about noise from the turbines, as well as about clear-cutting, impact on deer and other wildlife, and the potential for harm to the view and the creation of a flicker from the windmill. She also expressed concern that more than one wind turbine could eventually be installed at the site. Pavin said the PSB has not yet provided a date for a public hearing.
According to Day’s application, the 24-kilowatt producing turbine that is planned for the site on Bailey Hill Road would be 101 feet tall and approximately 600 feet from the road, and it is unlikely that it would be visible because it would be obscured by trees.
At Wednesday’s selectboard hearing, chair Helyn Strom-Henriksen said the board was taking a neutral position in the matter. “They met all other state requirements, and had other permits,” she said.
For more information contact Day at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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