Castleton – A controversial wind project will not go forward, according to an email from the developer to the Select Board, sent Monday.
“After careful consideration we will not be moving forward with the Grandpa’s Knob Community Wind project,” stated Sam Carlson, speaking on behalf of Grandpa’s Knob Community Wind in the email. “We would like to thank the Select Board and Planning Commission members for their interest, professionalism and courtesy regarding this project. In addition, we are grateful to the Town Managers of Castleton, Pittsford, West Rutland, Proctor and Hubbardton for their assistance in facilitating our conversations with the community.”
Last fall, Carlson went before the select boards in several towns, on behalf of wind developer David Blittersdorf, pitching the Grandpa’s Knob project, a single 1.5-megawatt turbine to honor the memory of the late Palmer Putnam.
Putnam is credited with building the world’s first megawatt-sized wind turbine to be hooked up to an electrical grid. The turbine was built in 1941 atop Grandpa’s Knob, though it no longer exists.
The developers talked about the project in every town from which they thought the new turbine might be visible. That included Hubbardton, Castleton, Pittsford, Proctor, West Rutland and Rutland Town, however some visual assessments later showed it likely wouldn’t be visible from Proctor at all.
The project has its own website, grandpasknobcommunitywind.com, where the developers posted information about it, along with monthly updates as to its progress. According to the site, the proposed tower would have been 285 feet high from base to generator hub, with a 143-foot blade sweep. It would have been near an existing 286-foot communications tower.
Carlson and Blittersdorf said their aim was to split half of the net annual operating profit from the turbine with the towns affected by its presence. The towns would have to come up with a way to fairly divide their share of the money.
When they first pitched the project, they said several times that it would be many months, if not a year or more, before they would be ready to file an application for a “certificate of public good” with the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
While the project had been accepted into the state’s standard offer program, it never got as far as filing a 45-day notice with the commission, something required ahead of a full-certificate application.
In June, a number of town officials went to the site to check it out. Castleton Select Board member Mary Lee Harris was among them. She said Tuesday that most of the people she has talked to about the project are against it, especially along Belgo Road, near where it would be built.
Board member Joe Mark didn’t visit the site, but drives for Meals on Wheels and delivers to many along Belgo Road, where he got similar feedback against the project.
“I did have some concerns,” he said. “The greatest were the purported vibrations these generate which would be noticeable to people within a mile and a quarter of the facility, and that depends to some extent on the maintenance of the turbine.”
His other concern was how visible it would be from the Hubbardton Battlefield. Given the battlefield’s importance to the area, and the nation’s history, he said the turbine’s impact on the view would have been “regrettable.”
The developer pulling back is a win for local control, said Lisa Wright, of West Rutland, who serves as an assessor for many towns in the area. She was vocal in her opposition to the project at a number of board meetings.
“That’s my biggest takeaway from it, is there’s still a place in Vermont where (residents) of a town can make their feelings known to the select boards and the powers that be and have a real dialogue, and they can change things,” she said Tuesday. “That’s very heartening for me, it’s a good feeling, and I can only hope the folks in Montpelier have the same takeaway.”
Most, if not all, of the towns the turbine would have affected had in their town plans language discouraging such projects. It likewise wasn’t in line with the regional plan, though the developers argued the project merited an exception.
“It was an unnecessary, heavy weight that the select boards and their region had to juggle into their colossal mix of concerns,” stated Vanessa Mills, of Pittsford, in an email Tuesday. “All the surrounding towns had already said ‘no’ to industrial-sized developments (and the inevitable accompanying impacts) upon ridge lines, with good, solid reasons.”
Many who spoke out against the project invoked the memory of a much larger project proposed about 10 years ago along that same ridge line. That project, backed by different developers, called for about a score of turbines to be built along the ridge line. It was called off a few years after it was proposed.
Carlson did not return calls on Tuesday.
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