Commercial Wind in the National Forest

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The debate over commercial wind power on our ridgelines is
about to rev up again. A Spanish Conglomerate, doing business as Deerfield Wind
L.L.C., wants to build 17 turbines on land within the Green Mountain National
Forest in Searsburg and Readsboro. Forest Supervisor Meg Mitchell helps us sort
through some of the issues likely to dominate the decision-making process,
including the presence of prime black bear habitat on the land that’s slated
for the development. And Jim Matteau of the Windham Regional Commission fills
us in on how arguments for and against the project are lining up. (Listen)

Also on the program, we hear from Brenda Torpy of the
Champlain Housing Trust about the
international award her agency received this Fall.(Listen)

And we conclude with jazz
from the Vermon-based Will Patton Ensemble.

AP Photo/Tim Roske

This photo shows the existing wind turbines operated by Green Mountain Power in Searsburg. The proposed new turbines would be twice as high, just under 400 feet.


Emails from listeners–

Greg Bryant in Sheffield, member of Ridge Protectors–

We are opposed to development of our ridgelines
by foreign industrial wind developers.  In Sheffield
we are painfully aware of the damage to small
rural communities.  As 6th generation Vermonters
we know the damage that can and will be done to our

Vermont has a long history of protecting its ridgelines.
Our state was named after these hillsides "Verne-Monte"
so it is not surprising that Vermonters would continue
to follow this tradition.

In Sheffield we are painfully aware of the damage that
is done to a community when developers come and
manipulate small local governments, pay money to
residents for their support, and turn neighbor against
neighbor, town against town.
Our small community has raised hundreds of

Developers reap all the gain here, Vermonters and
small communities bear the damage.

Small wind turbines, and locally controlled projects
are much more suited for our rural areas.  This is
something that we all can agree on and has benefit for

Virginia in North Middlesex–

I think we not only have to promote small wind farms to help
communities, but that we should also promote individual wind production. The state needs to help people install wind and/or solar on their personal
dwellings. This would limit the large numbers of turbines on our ridgelines and
still promote the expansion of renewable energy. I do think the argument
against them gets ridiculous however due to the large numbers of towers already
on those ridges.

Nate in Northfield–

VPR listeners just heard an On-Point program discussing the problems of
diminishing species around the globe.  Much of the problem derives from
our growing carbon footprint and climate change.
How do we balance our impact on the black bear habitat in Southern
Vermont with our responsibility to grow clean energy sources, like the
proposed wind turbines?

How do we assess whether an "expert" claim about black bear habitat
isn’t just a last ditch effort to stop a useful project?

Michael in Rutland–

Though it may be early, assuming that the power will be sold to
Vermont utilities, how do opponents of the project propose that we
generate electricity if this project does not come to fruition?  With
Vermont Yankee going out of service in the near future, and uncertainty
with regards to the Hydro Quebec contracts, it would seem that it is in
the best interest of the state as a whole to pursue any form of clean
energy to replace these sources of electricity.

Paul Brouha in Sutton, member of Ridge Protectors–

In reviewing the Searsburg Wind Expansion DEIS prepared by the Forest
Service I was struck by fact that the first section of the document, The

Purpose and Need section, fails to address why there is a need to permit such
an activity on National Forest Lands. In general the agency policy is not to
compete with the private sector unless there is a need that can not be met on
private lands. How does the addition to the 35,000 MW New England Power Grid of
the up to 34 MW of unreliably available energy (it is expected to produce at
30–35% efficiency) from the project address a need? Why must it be met on the
National Forest? 

Mardi in Arlington–

In the past our country has had ‘rural electrical co-operatives’ that
were run to provide cheap power and financial benefit to rural
communities throughout our nation.   Shouldn’t we Vermonters be
thinking about ways that we could organize similar ventures to own all
or part of the means of production of power, so that over time
Vermonters would benefit.   Done properly this could mean an enduring
stream of income that could be used for reduction in property taxes as
well as lower energy costs for municipal buildings, schools and local

For those who say that wind or hydro power generation would spoil
our state, consider that for decades, perhaps longer, tourists have
flocked to Holland to see their windmills.  Anyone who has seen the
stately giants hugging the hillside in Searsburg has to admit that
there is an elegance and beauty to the scene.   We need to think
constructively and be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Rob in Sutton–

The 7.6 miles of undeveloped ridgeline proposed for developement in

sheffield is also prime bear habitat comprised of 58 wetlands, high elevation

streams and headwaters, and hundreds of bear scarred beech trees. In Sheffield
the VT ANR initially had serious concerns about the fragmentation and
destruction of prime bear habitat but these concerns mysteriously evaporated
and the ANR promoted the project while the USFWS remained opposed and was
critical of the developers "studies" and concerned for bears, as well as birds
and bats.

In Searsburg the VT ANR is opposing the project due to undue adverse affect on
bears and the feds are okay with it.
There seems little doubt that building 400+ foot loud strobe lit machines, miles
of roads, cutting beech trees and destroying prime habitat will be bad for
bears as well as people.
Is an intermittent, unreliable, ugly, highly subsidized insignificant, loud

energy source worth destroying bear habitat, our tourist economy, property

values, and the bears and our quality of life?
How is generation owned by rich foreign conglomerates considered in state
locally produced power?

James in South Londonderry–

Why doesn’t the Forest Service evaluate it’s land holdings and

determine where the best locations are for commercial wind plants in the state
of Vermont, then ask the developers to bid on the properties as is done with
oil and gas properties, so that the citizens get the best return on their land.
At the same time, a provision should be made to sell the electric power only
in Vermont in order to meet the obligations of RPS.

James in Montpelier–

I am strongly opposed to the establishment of ridgeline turbines in
Vermont. My thesis is that Vermont is an entirely different ‘case’ than many
others, that those qualities that make people spiritually, psychologically and
bodily connected to Vermont will be ruined forever by this technology. I offer
the following other reasons:

1. The ‘math’ is not there to justify using this method of generation to

replace VY. If you calculate the maximum output (rarely achieved as turbines
generate at a greatly diminished level due to fluctuating wind conditions) of
any number of turbines and multiply that number until you reach the equal
(reliable) output that VY generates for Vermont, then we shall be facing
hundreds and hundreds of these massive steel emplacements marring our scenery.

2.I consider it immoral that those that use the most power. in the cities, are

protected (from having to bear the ‘cost’, aesthetically, of these turbines) by

a federal restriction that does not allow for structures of this height within

6.5 miles of any airport. This then forces them out into areas of the state

which large numbers of Vermonters have chosen to inhabit (and bear the

consequences) as they love the natural state of the land, it’s vistas and it’s


3.Installations of wind generating turbines require an infrastructure of

transmission lines to get the power onto the grid.

4. Installation of turbines requires the extensive terrain ‘levelling’ (destruction) of natural ridges so that equipment can access the sites.

5. Due to their height turbines require FAA lighting to warn flying aircraft,.

Gone forever the idyllic evening and night skies captured so beautifully by

painters like Maxfield Parrish and which so many visitors and residents find so
spiritually uplifting.

6. Turbines are in constant motion, do emit low level repetitive noise as they

turn, noise which so some is debilitating.

7. Turbines emit ‘flicker’ in certain conditions which can trigger migraines as

well as irritate.

8. Turbines fail (see Searsburg in early October/08) and when they fail they

pollute due to toxic oil spillages and create fire risk.

9. Companies wishing to install wind farms have a record of soliciting

economically stressed rural communities with cash inducements which produce
incentives to sign agreements that can reduce the quality of life in the long

10. The major benefactors of thes wind turbine emplacements are the companies
that install them as they receive massibe subsidies and tax write offs that,
essentially, pass on the cost of the equipment to the public purse.

Lee in Manchester–

With regard to this subject:  while in a perfect world, yes we
certainly should have a more comprehensive energy plan. However, in the real
world, what these individual and bitter debates also show us is how insular our

thinking remains. We seem to oppose every wind proposal because we’re afraid of
how they look, or whether a few bears or bats might be impacted. Important:
yes, but in the big picture, we keep our heads in the sand while mountains are
strip mined for coal, highly toxic uranium is mined, milled, transported, and
used as fuel in nuclear plants; and enormous Canadian lands are flooded for
hydro. It’s OK for others to bear those burdens, even within our own state as
long as it stays on that side of the mountain, while we spend endless hours and
dollars debating a few wind turbines, even on sites already developed for such
purposes. Some would suggest it’s all a very short sighted (and perhaps even
selfish) approach, not in my back yard at its finest (or worst). "when will we
ever learn?" I hope you will continue to study this more broadly, and help
stimulate broader thinking than many have been willing to consider to date.

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