HOLLAND – State officials and local residents should see just how tall a 500-foot wind turbine will look like sitting on a farm field in rural Vermont.
That’s the decision by the hearing officer with the Vermont Public Service Board.
Thomas Knauer has ordered the developer of the Dairy Air Wind Project to put up a large red helium balloon in time for Thursday’s site visit or explain why it can’t be done.
The site visit is 3 p.m. at Dairy Air Farm on School Road, about a mile from Holland Elementary School, and also from various vantage points in the rural border community.
At 6 p.m. in the school, the developer’s consultants will explain the details of the single wind turbine, followed at 7 p.m. by a public hearing, when Knauer will take public comments on the project.
The developer, David Blittersdorf, petitioned the PSB just before New Year’s to erect the nearly 500-foot-tall turbine, which would be the first in Vermont in a rural farm setting rather than on ridgelines.
The Holland Select Board, a residents’ group, some abutting landowners, Northeastern Vermont Development Association and at least one Quebec town oppose the project.
Holland voters and landowners voted overwhelmingly against the idea of a large wind turbine on a Holland farm in a mail-in survey last year, 314 opposed, 59 in favor, and 44 undecided.
After a pre-hearing conference, Knauer asked that a weather balloon be used to mark the site and height of the proposed turbine.
Blittersdorf’s attorney David Mullett responded in a letter, saying that a large balloon won’t work given the winds at this location and a balloon wouldn’t adequately represent the appearance of what a large wind turbine would look like up close or from a distance.
He also noted that the Federal Aviation Administration would have to be notified and give permission for a balloon like that higher than 200 feet, and would need to have a light on it at night.
Mullett said a photo-simulation of what the turbine would look like would provide a better example of the turbine as proposed.
On Thursday, Knauer rejected those arguments.
“It is not clear … why floating a large helium balloon on the day of the site visit would not be possible or would be unreasonably expensive,” Knauer wrote in his most recent order.
“While I recognize the visual dissimilarity between a helium balloon and a 2.2 megawatt wind turbine, I continue to believe that floating a balloon at an elevation approximating the height of the proposed wind turbine would be useful to the board, the parties, and members of the public in providing a real-world sense of the vertical scale of the proposed project.
“Therefore, the petitioner is directed to indicate by no later Tuesday whether it will be able to provide a balloon for the site visit, and, if not, the reason why it will not be possible,” Knauer concluded.
It is expected to take almost a year for the review of the wind turbine project.
Blittersdorf has filed a 45-day notice of plans for two industrial-sized wind turbines on Kidder Hill in either Irasburg, Lowell or both.
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