Wind developer scales back Northeast Kingdom project

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(Host) A Massachusetts wind energy developer has scaled back the size of a project planned for the Northeast Kingdom.

UPC Wind says it will drop 10 of 26 turbines in an effort to address opponents’ concerns. But a leading opposition group says it’s still not satisfied.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The project is planned for several mountain ridgelines in the towns of Sheffield and Sutton. Sheffield voters have backed the proposal. Residents in Sutton voted against it.

UPC Wind says its scaled down proposal eliminates all but two turbines in Sutton. The turbines will be slightly larger. But the company says they’ll be less obtrusive because they’ll be further away from most houses and roads.

(Stearns) “It’s a good-sized project. We lost 12 megawatts here, but what we’ve gained is a Vermont scale project.”

(Dillon) Matt Stearns is the UPC project manager. He says the company has dropped plans to build turbines on Hardscrabble Mountain in Sheffield. He says that should reduce the visual impact on Crystal Lake State Park and Interstate 91.

Stearns says the goal was to meet the concerns of local residents and state officials who have opposed the project in testimony before the Public Service Board.

(Stearns) “It made much more sense to eliminate Hardscrabble Mountain. It made economic sense, and sort of social sense, and it also made sense in terms of permitting, permit schedule and this kind of thing.”

(Dillon) But the change did not satisfy a main opponent of the UPC wind farm. Greg Bryant is with Ridge Protectors, a citizen’s group fighting the project.

(Bryan) “It doesn’t help. You can’t hide an elephant behind a bush, and you can’t hide a 420-foot tower, even if you drop the number. For us they’re dropping the number and increasing the size. So it’s kind of the same, or worse.”

(Dillon) An official with the Department of Public Service, which has described the project as too large, said the state could not comment until officials reviewed the changes.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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