PITTSFORD – A proposal to build a single wind turbine atop Grandpa’s Knob to honor a historical figure in the wind industry was met with strong opposition by people in the community at a Select Board meeting Wednesday.
The Grandpa’s Knob Community Wind project is backed by David Blittersdorf, a wind developer, who was in attendance at the meeting, which drew upwards of 30 people, the vast majority of whom voiced their disapproval of the project.
Much of their ire stems from a project proposed in 2012 for between 18 and 20 turbines. Blittersdorf was not the developer behind that effort, which was met with heavy opposition and never constructed.
Sam Carlson, in charge of community relations for Grandpa’s Knob Community Wind, has already spoken to the select boards in Hubbardton and Castleton, and plans to talk with Proctor and West Rutland in the coming weeks.
According to a fact-sheet Blittersdorf supplied to Pittsford, the single 1.5 megawatt wind turbine would be 295 feet high from base to its generator hub with blades that sweep 143 feet higher than the hub. It’s similar in height to a communications tower also on Grandpa’s Knob.
Carlson has said that half of the annual net profit from the turbine will be put into a fund and distributed among the affected towns per some as-yet-to-be-determined agreement.
Blittersdorf said he’s doing this to honor Palmer Putnam, who in 1941 built a wind turbine on Grandpa’s Knob that was the first 1.5 megawatt wind turbine to be connected to an electrical grid. The tower no longer exists. Blittersdorf, who was born in Proctor and grew up in Pittsford, said a big part of the reason he became a wind developer was because of the old turbine, the foundation of which he first saw in 1969.
He said he met Putnam in 1982 at a wind conference and shook the man’s hand.
“It was amazing, and I’ll always remember that. And that’s what’s driven me in doing all this good stuff for our world,” he said. “I just wanted to tell you that personal story, because this is really personal. It’s not about making tons of money. As (Carlson) said, we’re looking for a way to give back half of our profits to everybody else in the community.”
The developers have said they’re between nine and 12 months away from filing for a “certificate of public good” with the Public Utility Commission. The project has been accepted into the state’s standard offer program, guaranteeing it 11.6 cents per kilowatt hour from Green Mountain Power for 20 years should it ever be built.
Their pitch did not appear to convince many people in the room.
“I live on Whipple Hollow. Grandpa’s Knob is right behind me, so I will have all of your ill-effects, and I do say, ill-effects,” said Pam Sokol. “As I mentioned before in (the) last visit about 10 years ago I do not want you in my backyard. I don’t know how many more times I can say it. Stay out of my backyard, I don’t want you there. If you want to do a museum, there’s plenty of places that are open for rent. Rent a storefront, have at it. You do not need to wreck or do anything else to our mountaintops. Do you understand? Do you really understand? Are you listening?”
“I’m listening to you,” said Blittersdorf.
“I hope so,” said Sokol, “because we’ve been around this before, and we’ll be here again, over and over again, to fight you. I don’t care how many you put up, I don’t want any. I don’t want one, I don’t want 10, I want you to leave my backyard alone.”
Lisa Wright, of Florence, which is part of Pittsford, said the towns have already made their positions on industrial wind clear, they don’t want them. She circulated a letter from the Rutland Regional Planning Commission saying that industrial wind does not conform with the regional plan, nor the town plans in the impacted communities.
Select Board Chair Alicia Malay said if this is a community wind project, then would the developers continue moving forward with it if the communities in question make their opposition clear?
“That’s a fair question,” said Carlson. “I think what we want to do is, again, engage with the select boards and discuss, again, what are the costs of the project, what are the benefits of the project. I think you need to get a fuller picture of those things before you say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
She asked the question again and got another response from Carlson saying that more information would be forthcoming.
“You didn’t answer the question,” said Malay.
Board member Joe Gagnon said he generally likes wind turbines, and recalls seeing the Putnam turbine from his home when he was about 6 years old, however he doesn’t feel he’s in a position to tell others more directly impacted how they should feel about such a project. He said he’d like more information before coming to judgment, but was also skeptical of the developer’s motive.
“I do think these people that want to build this, to stand there and say just because this guy was a wonderful guy and you want to build a monument to him out of your own pocket, I find that questionable,” he said. “There’s got to be a dollar in it for you people somewhere. I don’t spend money unless I think I’m going to get it back.”
Some were upset that this project is even being proposed.
“I think right now our environment is more important than money, and I find that you are arrogant to come in here and go against all our town plans and make us go through this whole process again during this particular time in history,” said Sandy Mayo. “It’s total arrogance. I’m shocked that I have to get out of my house and come and do all this over again.”
A number of people were concerned that by allowing one turbine, they’d be invalidating their town plans on the subject and open the door for more turbines.
“We certainly are happy to say all we are interested in doing is a single wind turbine to honor Palmer Putnam, that’s why we’re doing this,” said Carlson.
Blittersdorf said his company has leased about 14 acres for the turbine and doesn’t control the rest of the ridge line.
The developers said they will be sharing more information on the project during the next several months.
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