Protesters Call For More Solar, Fewer Wind Projects

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(Host) Protesters turned out on the Statehouse lawn on Wednesday to oppose a wind energy project in Lowell and others planned around the state.

The critics of large-scale wind say solar power is the better way to meet Vermont’s energy needs.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) They came by bus, many from the Northeast Kingdom, the region of the state that’s now in the bull’s eye of ridgeline wind development.

Luke Snelling is with Energize Vermont, a group that opposes the projects. He told the crowd that solar energy is getting cheaper and is the better, less environmentally damaging alternative.

(Snelling) "We’re here fighting for our energy liberation. We can no longer expect that corporations in this state will set the tone for our energy future. We can’t allow it. So we’re here today to say to say no more! No more to GMP setting the agenda!" Crowd cheers.

(Dillon) Green Mountain Power is the developer of a 21 turbine project planned for the Lowell Mountain ridgeline.

The project would be the largest wind development in the state, and it’s won almost all the permits it needs from state regulators.

But the protesters want Governor Peter Shumlin to drop his support for large-scale wind. Organizer Steve Wright from Craftsbury delivered a letter to Shumlin’s office. He says a four-mile long road planned for the Lowell ridgeline will be 405 feet wide at each of the 21 turbine sites.

(Wright) "That’s a crime against the landscape of Vermont. We don’t need to do it, we’re smarter than that. Vermonters know how to stay warm without burning the furniture in their own house."

(Dillon) Wright is a former state commissioner of fish and wildlife who says the large wind projects damage wildlife habitat and harm upland streams.

GMP says it’s planned the project to minimize the impact on the environment. Dorothy Schnure is the company spokeswoman.

(Schnure) "Any major project in Vermont is going to have a variety of opinion, and a difference of opinion. But what we do know is that most people in Vermont support the development of wind power. And we know that people in Lowell, we know that members of Vermont Electric Co-op, have supported this project."

(Dillon) The protesters were not just focused on Lowell. Ira Powsner is community organizer with Energize Vermont.  He says about 10 projects are planned statewide. Powsner says towns can protect their ridgelines through strong zoning ordinances and town plans.

(Pownser) "That’s what we’re trying to do now. We’re trying to organize town planning commissions to put strong language in their town plans against ridgeline development and site for energy development appropriately. Vermont is the way it is because we’re good at planning."

(Dillon) The opponents also charge that wind development is an expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But GMP says the project is the most cost-effective way to meet the state’s renewable energy goals.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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