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The Green Mountain Club is requesting a study of visual impacts a proposed 500-foot wind generating turbine on a site in Stamford would have from the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail corridor.
In a letter sent to the state Public Utility Commission about the proposed 2.2-megawatt facility planned by Norwich Solar Technologies, the club, which maintains the Long Trail, requested “a viewshed assessment of the proposed turbine from the trail treadway … so that the visual impact of this proposal can be assessed for these significant recreation resources.”
Reached by phone, Martha Staskus, chief development officer with the company, said the developer already has done assessment work on views from surrounding areas, and information on that work and a map are posted on the Stamford Wind project webpage on the company’s website.
“I’m appreciative of Green Mountain Club’s comments, and certainly we have included consideration of the trail in our assessments,” Staskus said.
Both the 14-state Appalachian Trail and Vermont’s Long Trail share a pathway through Southern Vermont before branching off in the Rutland area.
According to the club’s comment letter, the wind project – if approved – would be within a 5-mile radius of the trails in both Stamford and Woodford.
Executive Director Michael DeBonis said that the nonprofit club has more than 9,500 members and manages more than 500 miles of hiking trails in Vermont, also including trails in the Kingdom Heritage Lands in the Northeast Kingdom area.
While the wind project developer has filed a required 45-day advance notice of a formal permit application to the PUC, that period has expired. However, the company has since asked for two extensions to a deadline, which was linked to the firm’s 2022 agreement to sell electricity to utilities at a specific price over 20 years.
Staskus said the extension at this point was requested – and apparently is being allowed by the commission – because Norwich is waiting for necessary assessment reports from the utilities involved, which are Green Mountain Power and National Grid in Massachusetts, on connectivity requirements and related issues.
“The situation we are in is, we cannot submit an application – the application will not be deemed complete – until we have the resulting studies from the utilities,” she said.
No hearings in the permitting case will be scheduled until the developer has submitted a detailed application with information on several aspects of the project and its potential impacts on the surrounding area and the environment.
Comments also were sent to the PUC by abutters and others and by the Stamford Planning Commission, which is requesting intervenor status in the coming permitting process.
In a submission, Planning Commission Chairman Aaron Malachuk stated in part that:
- The location of the wind project does not meet Stamford’s Enhanced Energy Plan, which calls for a one kilometer residential buffer zone.
- The location of the wind turbine is not within a preferred area for wind energy projects as established in the town energy plan.
- The commission has received comments “from at least nine residents up-gradient who do not want this windmill so close to their homes and are concerned about the visual impact of the windmill and a negative effect on property values. The Planning Commission has not received written or verbal comments from any resident who is in favor of this project.”
Additional comments were submitted by a group of abutters to the project site in the town’s northeast corner, several miles from the Readsboro border and west of Route 8.
They stated in part, “The proposed wind project: does not meet either the Bennington Regional [Planning Commission] or the Stamford Enhanced Energy Plans, which are entitled to ‘substantial deference’ from the Public Utility Commission. Therefore, we recommend that Norwich Solar Technologies withdraw this proposal, as it has the potential to be disruptive to our community while not providing sufficient benefit to the state of Vermont to overcome the substantial deference the PUC must give to the town and regional plans.”
As described on the developer’s website, “The project location utilizes portions of two private land parcels for access and hosting the 2.2 megawatt wind turbine. The wind turbine will be accessed by utilizing an existing drive off Main Road in Stamford and extending it for a total length of [approximately] 1.46 mile.”
The description adds, “A Green Mountain Power (GMP) electric line extension will run along the access drive. The wind turbine location is at approximately 2,250 feet elevation. A previously disturbed location along the access road will be used for temporary construction staging and a crane pad will be constructed at the turbine location to facilitate installation of the wind turbine.”
The main components of the wind turbine, according to the website, would include “a three-bladed rotor assembly, a nacelle, and the supporting tower. The rotor assembly – the three blades attached to the hub – is mounted to the nacelle, which sits atop the tower. The wind turbine will be approximately 500 feet tall when the tip of a blade is in its highest position.”
During a Planning Commission meeting in August, Staskus said benefits of the project would include the production of non-fossil fuel generated energy and would bring Stamford about $30,000 in annual property tax revenue.
Concerning sound levels, Staskus said state rules require the sound to be below 39 decibels at night, which she said is approximately the sound rating for a refrigerator or dishwasher.
Staskus said the facility is proposed in the same general area as Deerfield Wind and Searsburg Wind in Vermont and the Hoosac Wind facility in Monroe and Florida, Mass. – in a region considered favorable to wind power generation.
She termed the region “an energy powerhouse” in explaining why so many projects have been proposed or located there.
Staskus added that the PUC permitting process would consider visual impacts, wildlife habitat, noise impacts, historic preservation effects; stormwater runoff plans; wetlands impacts, access road details and other project aspects.
State environmental or other agencies also will likely review and comment on the project details.
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