Wind energy company eyes Vermont ridgelines

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(Host) A Connecticut wind energy company is scouting Vermont ridgelines for possible new projects.

The company says it’s not put off by the Douglas Administration’s opposition to large-scale wind energy development.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Noble Environmental Power has about a thousand megawatts of wind generation under development in New York and Michigan.

Noble recently hired one of Vermont’s leading wind energy consultants, and it’s eyeing sites in Vermont and elsewhere in New England.

In Vermont at least, Noble is going to a state where other developers have failed. State regulators rejected permits for the East Haven Windfarm in the Northeast Kingdom. Catamount Energy has shelved its plans to build turbines on Glebe Mountain in southern Vermont. And Governor Jim Douglas has said he’s leery of big wind development.

Anna Giovinetto is spokeswoman for Noble. She says she heard some skepticism when she attended a recent renewable energy conference in Burlington.

(Giovinetto) “And so at the conference a number of people came up and say, what are you guys doing here? Don’t you know that Vermont is a graveyard for wind energy developers, and that it’s a terrible place to be?’ And my response is sorry, we didn’t get the memo. Nobody told us we’re not supposed to be here. We’re actually very excited about Vermont and New England.'”

(Dillon) Giovinetto says Noble is a year or so away from selecting sites in Vermont.

One possible location is Grandpa’s Knob in Rutland County, the birthplace of the nation’s wind industry. Central Vermont Public Service Corp built a wind generator there in the early 1940s, but one of its blades snapped off a few years later and the project was eventually dismantled.

(Giovinetto) “Rutland County is definitely of interest. It’s tremendous wind resources, and the indications are the population is highly supportive there as they are throughout Vermont. Grandpa’s Knob definitely has potential as well. And it certainly has the unique historical aspect to it as well. It’s the site of the first commercial wind turbine in the United States.”

(Dillon) Noble Environmental has hired John Zimmerman, a wind energy consultant with extensive experience in New England.

Zimmerman says he’s encouraged by recent public opinion polls conducted by Noble.

(Zimmerman) “And the results of that polling showed an extremely strong support for renewable energy and very high support for wind energy in particular. And if you go on down through the polling question you eventually get to one even if it’s on a mountain ridge in your view. Still, the results are very strong for wanting that renewable resource developed.”

(Dillon) Governor Jim Douglas, however, has said he’s against what he calls the “industrialization of ridgelines” through wind power development.

Giovinetto says the company will reach out to state officials and the public to win support for its projects.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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