HOLLAND – The Holland Planning Commission is proposing a new energy section in the town plan that planners hope will give the town a say in the siting of the Dairy Air Wind turbine on a local farm.
The energy section of the plan will be presented to the public on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Holland School.
But the draft plan won’t be complete by the time that the Dairy Air Wind developer applies later this month for a certificate of public good for a 499-foot-tall wind turbine proposed for Dairy Air Farm on School Road.
Planning Commission Chairman Andrew Bouchard said last week that the planning commission will show the Vermont Public Service Board that the town has done as much work as possible on its town plan and should get “a time out” to complete it before any industrial-grade wind or solar projects are approved.
The draft energy plan includes the idea of a community-owned methane digester.
The planners acknowledge that they are supposed to use the town plan to identify locations for renewable energy projects under Act 174, in order for the board to give due consideration to their opposition to the siting of the Dairy Air Wind turbine.
“Given the extreme time constraints the town is working under, the town respectfully wishes to refrain from identifying specific areas appropriate for siting of renewable energy facilities … until a series of meetings can be held to allow the citizens of Holland a voice in what they want in their community.
“The town intends to have an amendment to this area of the town plan that will include the mapping of locally identified resources (such as scenic views) and the identification of potential suitable areas, and this amended plan will be filed with the Public Service Board by January 2018.
“With this goal in mind, the town plans on supporting no potential commercial-scale renewable energy facility until such time the citizens are able to lend their voice on what is appropriate for the town of Holland,” the draft energy section states.
But Holland does support the state’s energy goals, the draft plan states.
“The Town of Holland will diligently work to support policies and projects that will result in at least 25 percent of local energy use across all sectors being produced by renewable energy resources by 2025.
“As almost 50 percent of the town’s thermal energy was produced by renewable sources in the benchmark year of 2014, the town is well on its way towards this goal,” the draft plan states.
Nearly 50 percent of Holland residents burn wood in their homes and businesses.
Because Holland is a poor town, renewable energy projects must not cause undue impacts on its limited resources, like valuable agricultural or forest land or viewsheds in the natural or historic areas section in the town plan. Renewable projects must significantly contribute to the town’s financial well-being, the planners add.
Planners want to protect the 9,400-acre Bill Sladyk Wildlife Management Area, which is in Holland and Norton and includes migratory bird flight paths, including the endangered common loon.
Planners state that Holland will promote the use of heat pumps along with wood resources as well as a community-wide project.
“The Town of Holland intends to investigate the creation of a community-owned methane digester that could provide renewable electrical generation to Vermont Electric Cooperative, while making use of on-farm resources. Such a facility can most appropriately co-exist with the town’s pastoral landscape, while helping to eliminate greenhouse gases.
“The town could pursue a 50 percent or more shareholder stake in such a project, and the development of a facility could be dependent on the support of 65 percent or more of the town’s voting population in a binding referendum,” the draft plan states.
The town also promotes small wind turbines and small backyard and rooftop solar panels. Holland doesn’t want to see renewable projects take up more than two acres of agricultural or open land, according to the plan.
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