Scotland-based company eyes Vermont for wind turbine site

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(Host) An energy company based in Scotland wants state approval to put up 17 wind turbines on national forest land in southern Vermont.

The proposal is the first to come before state regulators since a developer won permission last month to construct a large-scale wind project in the Northeast Kingdom.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The brief hearing did not draw a crowd of opponents, like those who turned out against a wind project that was recently approved in the Northeast Kingdom.
Gerald DeGray of Searsburg was the only one who made the long drive north to Montpelier to formally intervene in the case. DeGray says his home is about three-quarters of a mile from the project.

(DeGray) "So our concerns, first and foremost is the noise created by the turbines. Second on the list, I would have to say are aesthetics. I think that there’s going to be three turbines that can be viewed from our yard, our home. The strobe lights involved with these turbines are also going to affect our night sky."

(Dillon) The developer of the project is PPM Atlantic Renewable, a Scottish power company with operations in Europe, Central America and the U.S.

Neil Habig is with PPM Atlantic. He says the wind turbines will meet international standards for noise reduction. He says he’s met with DeGray to address the neighbor’s concerns.

(Habig) "To try and provide him all the information he’s looking for, give him opportunities to familiarize himself with other wind farms, opportunities to talk to landowners of other existing wind farms, to get a real sense of what they’re experience has been, which we’re confident will allay a lot of his concerns."

(Dillon) PPM is developing 500 megawatts of wind power in the Northeast. The Vermont project calls for 17 turbines – and would produce a maximum of about 35 megawatts.

The project is planned for two ridgelines on the Green Mountain National Forest, near an existing wind development. This section of the public forest includes large areas of roadless land. And protecting that resource is a top priority for many environmentalists.

Jake Brown is with the Vermont Natural Resources Council.

(Brown) "It’s important that any sort of major development project in high elevation areas such as this is properly reviewed for the ecological impacts and the impact on bear habitat and high elevation streams. So we’re interested to ensure that to the greatest degree possible these impacts can be mitigated or avoided."

(Dillon) The Public Service Board review will look at environmental and economic impacts of the project, using many of the same criteria that are found in the Act 250 development control law. The project must also win approval from the U.S. Forest Service.

But DeGray, the Searsburg resident, says he’s a builder, not a lawyer. And he’s feeling a bit overwhelmed by the legal process.

(DeGray) "And we’re left to try and defend ourselves – just the average citizen with limited resources and time. We’re left trying to defend ourselves against this corporation trying to bulldoze its way into our town. And I don’t think that’s fair."

(Dillon) The Public Service Board plans to hold a public hearing on the wind project in October.

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

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