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Danby-based group fights wind farm development

June 4, 2012

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Danby-based group fights wind farm development
By SANDI SWITZER
Correspondent | June 04,2012

DANBY — An image depicting a blazing orange sunset across Lake Champlain with six wind turbines featured prominently in the foreground has generated Internet buzz.

The photograph displayed on Champlain Wind Park’s website http://www.champlainwindpark.com/ is a simulation of what a wind project featuring turbines set to scale at 490 feet would resemble if located off the Burlington waterfront.

The website is the brainchild of Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment based in Danby and has drawn opposition as well as support for a non-existing wind farm proposal on the state’s largest lake.

Smith created the website after learning the results of the Doyle poll indicated large support among Chittenden County residents for wind power.

She said it was also sparked by Burlington Electric Department’s decision to purchase power from the Sheffield commercial wind farm, the utility company’s plans to buy the development rights to the Georgia Mountain project in Milton and its interest in Reunion Power’s industrial wind proposal on Grandpa’s Knob with ridgelines in a number of Rutland County towns.

“The attitude among some Chittenden County residents seems to be that they are happy to make sure that Vermont sacrifices to save the planet, and they seem quite happy that the mountains are being sacrificed,” Smith said. “From my perspective this is the best argument I can make for a moratorium, because the helter-skelter development is creating enormous problems. It is not leading us anywhere positive, and the fact is there is nothing stopping a developer from proposing the Champlain Wind Park.” Smith explained.

She said all New England states with the exception of Vermont had Renewable Portfolio Standards that could be met by purchasing renewable energy credits. Vermont has SPEED which, she said, allowed utilities to purchase power from renewable energy projects and then sell the RECs out of state so other states could meet renewable energy requirements.

“Vermonters should care that their environment and people’s lives and investments are being sacrificed to get brown power for Vermonters, enabling other states to get the benefit. And in some cases coal power plants will buy the RECs and that will enable dirty polluting power plants to keep running. All on the backs of Vermonters,” Smith said.

The VCE executive director characterized Reunion Power’s plans for Grandpa’s Knob as a “loser.” The company wants to build a 50-megawatt industrial wind farm with 20 turbines measuring up to 490 feet each on ridgelines in Castleton, Hubbardton, Pittsford and West Rutland.

“It is the most populated project area yet to date, affecting more than 1,000 people within two miles. Noise would be a huge problem, and property values and investments are at serious risk. The noise issue is the one that makes this technology totally inappropriate to put anywhere in Vermont. These machines do not belong near where people live, and Vermont does not have either the environment or the low to zero population density necessary for these big machines,” Smith said.

Smith said VCE would be assisting citizens living near the Pittsford ridgeline throughout the regulatory process.

The height of the proposed wind turbines would be approximately the same height as ones depicted in the Burlington waterfront image.

Burlington Electric’s interest in purchasing wind power generated on Grandpa’s Knob, Georgia Mountain and elsewhere “enables” developers to move forward with their plans, according to Smith.

A BED spokesperson did not respond to a request for comments on the utility’s renewable energy purchases.

VCE does not support the development of a wind farm on Lake Champlain. “Noise travels further over water, and in Europe they are finding that wind turbines need to be nine miles offshore for the low-frequency infrasound to not be a problem,” Smith said.

Wind proposals on ridgelines created additional concerns ranging from storm water runoff to impacts on songbirds, wildlife habitats and habitat fragmentation, she said.

“So while the impacts on water are fewer than on ridgelines, the noise is still extremely problematic. These big machines do not belong near where people live because of the noise issues,” Smith said.

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