HOLLAND – Experts for the state and the town of Holland say the proposed single wind turbine planned for Dairy Air Farm would fail a critical test when it comes to visual impact on the immediate surroundings.
Experts for the Vermont Department of Public Service and the town say the turbine would create what’s called an unduly adverse visual impact and fail the so-called Quechee test that is used in reviewing land development in Vermont.
Dairy Air Wind wants to raise a 499-foot-tall wind on a dairy farm on School Road, about a mile from the Holland Elementary School and the town clerk’s office.
The turbine proposed by developer David Blittersdorf would have the capacity to generate 2.2 megawatts of electricity. Dairy Air Wind filed a petition last December for a certificate of public good from utility regulators on the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Hearings on the project are expected this year. Meanwhile, parties in the case are filing and challenging testimony in preparation.
Both experts for the town and state agree with a Dairy Air Wind consultant that the single wind turbine would be sited on a flat part of the Holland valley in such a way that the visual impact would be somewhat limited at more than a mile away.
But they disagree when examining the view that neighbors and motorists will see within a mile of the site.
The turbine would be located about 300 feet from School Road and highly visible from that and other roads in the area that link farm houses and other homes to the town office and school and Valley Road, the main route through the town.
T.J. Boyles Associates, consultants for Dairy Air Wind, provided a report that found that the wind turbine would have an adverse visual impact within three miles of the site, and particularly within a mile. But that report found that the impact would not be unduly adverse.
The Boyles report points out that the PUC has found that other wind turbines of comparable size that are already up in Vermont were not considered shocking or visually offensive.
The Town of Holland hired Michael Lawrence & Associates to examine the visual impact. Lawrence’s report agrees with the Boyle report – to a point.
But Lawrence states that the wind turbine as seen up close “will visually dominate the surroundings.”
“It will have a sense of being omnipresent in Holland,” he added.
When viewed compared to low rolling hills, open fields and farms, Lawrence said the turbine would be “grossly out of scale.”
“While wind turbines aren’t new to Vermont, they’re not generally experienced in this kind of landscape at this close proximity,” he wrote.
Lawrence stated that the aesthetics would be both offensive and shocking when viewed within a mile away or less, failing the Quechee test.
Mark Kane analyzed the visual impact for the Department of Public Service, a public advocate agency. He also found that the turbine site has been well-chosen to minimize the broadest visual impacts.
Forested areas and the curve of the land limits the view beyond a mile and a half, including from the school and town clerk’s office, he found.
The most acute visual impacts will be near and along School Road north of the school and Twin Bridge Road, at Lyon Road, Kane said, calling the view in some areas “intimate.”
“Unlike wind projects set along taller ridgelines, the overall height of the turbine will be readily visible to many observers in the immediate landscape,” Kane wrote.
“It is not vertically isolated from observers in many instances. Natural terrain within this smaller area does not have the same capacity to reduce visibility, allowing greater proportions of the turbine (blades, nacelle, tower) to be visible.
“The potential proximity between observers and the proposed turbine is very close; potential observers can be within a public right-of-way along School Road or Twin Bridge Road and be less than 500 feet from the proposed turbine.
“From my experience, this is very much unlike other wind projects within Vermont where, because of their more elevated and remote locations they generally have greater horizontal separation,” Kane added. “But, while the choices made by the petitioner in the siting of the project lessens potentially broad visual impacts, I come back to the fact that within the more immediate landscape, the project would dominate the visual environment in ways that are profound and potentially shocking,” Kane stated.
Holland residents and taxpayers voted in a referendum against the project, Kane said, leading him to conclude that local residents or motorists who see it up close will find it offensive and shocking.
“I have concluded that the project does create an undue adverse impact to the scenic beauty of the region,” Kane stated.
And he noted that the local residents and motorists won’t get the benefit of the good siting choice by the developer.
“They will see the turbine in its entirety and from a distance unlike other wind projects in Vermont.”