(Host) Over 150 people packed Tinmouth’s Community Hall last night to hear about an industrial sized wind farm that’s being proposed in their community. While many at the meeting said they were trying to keep an open mind – the size and scope of the $160 million project have many worried.
VPR’s Nina Keck reports,
(Keck) For over an hour, Per White-Hansen outlined his company’s plans to build up to 60 industrial sized wind turbines on ridgelines scattered throughout Ira, Tinmouth, Poultney, West Rutland, Clarendon and Middletown Springs. White-Hansen is president of Vermont Community Wind, based in Charlotte. He says the sites in question have great wind exposure and are also close to Central Vermont Public Service, the state’s largest utility company.
(Per White Hansen) "You also have to have a transmission line. And right here in West Rutland is basically the main backbone of transmission in Vermont."
(Keck) White Hansen says the project will generate 80 megawatts of power – enough electricity for all of the homes in Rutland County and then some. The turbines themselves will be about 330 feet tall. While the company is still deciding which sites will work best, he says most of the turbines will be located in Ira where he’s secured a land lease with a logging company that owns 4,000 acres there. Ira resident Diane Vergi says she’s worried about the potential noise and light pollution.
(Vergi) "These ridgelines will have a huge impact on our environment in Ira. Why should Ira shoulder 25,000 homes worth of power – why should we have to look at these turbines 100 percent of the time when they’re only viable 33 percent of the time."
(Keck) But Per White-Hansen says engineers can lessen the impact from noise and light and he says they’re closely studying the project’s overall environmental impact. The Danish born entrepreneur says the potential to create renewable, reliable power and jobs is good for Vermont and the towns involved will benefit as well. He says his company will pay $10,000 per kilowatt hour, or about $800,000 a year divided up among those towns with turbines. Still, many residents, like Doug Fontaine of Tinmouth, left the meeting feeling conflicted.
(Fontaine)"I have an open mind about wind energy but I have to say that I’m not excited about this particular project because it’s industrial scale. That mountain range is near and dear to me – I go running up on Susie’s peak. And I can’t for the life of me condone the possibility of having a crane road up on that ridgeline."
(Keck) Mark Carlin of Danby says he’s glad so many people came to the town hall because he says no matter where you stand on the issue, it needs to be discussed.
(Carlin) "I just think it really needs to be wrestled with a lot. Because if we’re going to light up our homes and juice up our refrigerators. Are we going to be blind as to who’s paying the price -not in our back yard? Or are we going to admit that the very lifestyles we choose to live is destroying something and just getting a little more honest with that."
(Keck) Before any construction can occur, the proposal must undergo environmental impact studies and be reviewed by the public service board for permitting – something which could take several years.
For VPR news, I’m Nina Keck in Tinmouth.