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Wind farm permitting expected to begin shortly

Plans for a wind farm atop Georgia Mountain are coming together rapidly and the project-which would establish three to five turbines along the ridge-could be operational as soon as 2011, said consultants for the Georgia Mountain Community Wind LLC. The consultants testified before the Milton Planning Commission on March 17, as part of the project's permitting process.

MILTON, VT - Plans for a wind farm atop Georgia Mountain are coming together rapidly and the project-which would establish three to five turbines along the ridge-could be operational as soon as 2011, said consultants for the Georgia Mountain Community Wind LLC.

The consultants testified before the Milton Planning Commission on March 17, as part of the project's permitting process.

The hearing is required by law, but a decision on the wind farm will rest solely with the state Public Service Board (PSB), which handles permitting for power sources and is expected to receive the formal application by early April.

The meeting was held to solicit public input and to determine if the commission would pass along any comments to the state.

In the end, the commission declined to take a position on the project at this point and instead opted to relay concerns that were raised by roughly a dozen residents from the Georgia Mountain area, which included safety, aesthetics, and the possible impact the wind farm would have on property values

Speaking afterwards, commission Chairman Ed Robinson said it was too early to make a decision, adding they would continue to monitor the situation.

"We're going to review these... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

MILTON, VT - Plans for a wind farm atop Georgia Mountain are coming together rapidly and the project-which would establish three to five turbines along the ridge-could be operational as soon as 2011, said consultants for the Georgia Mountain Community Wind LLC.

The consultants testified before the Milton Planning Commission on March 17, as part of the project's permitting process.

The hearing is required by law, but a decision on the wind farm will rest solely with the state Public Service Board (PSB), which handles permitting for power sources and is expected to receive the formal application by early April.

The meeting was held to solicit public input and to determine if the commission would pass along any comments to the state.

In the end, the commission declined to take a position on the project at this point and instead opted to relay concerns that were raised by roughly a dozen residents from the Georgia Mountain area, which included safety, aesthetics, and the possible impact the wind farm would have on property values

Speaking afterwards, commission Chairman Ed Robinson said it was too early to make a decision, adding they would continue to monitor the situation.

"We're going to review these comments, we're going to wait for more input and...we're going to send the Public Service Board our comments on what the public gave us," he said.

"There were a lot of negative comments but there were also some positive comments," he added. "People have some concerns and I think they need to be addressed."

The wind farm proponents are seeking a Certificate of Public Good, which has wide ranging criteria that includes environmental impacts, the need for a given energy source, and whether it would cause an undue adverse impact to the aesthetics of the area.

A great deal of information has already been gathered on this topic, said project consultant Martha Staskus. She said the proponents-the Harrison family of Georgia-have been collecting the necessary data since late 2006 and that much of it would be released shortly in the PSB application.

However, the exact size and number of turbines remains uncertain at this point. Current estimates have the turbines standing 70 to 90 meters high and mounting a rotor of similar diameter, which would result in a maximum height of up to 123 meters.

Size of the turbines could impact how many are established on the ridge and they won't have specifics on that until they get to the procurement stage, said project owner Jim Harrison.

Construction specs aside, current estimates have the wind farm producing electricity to power 3,500 households, a prospect the state will likely be interested in, given its goals of using more locally generated and renewable energy, said project consultant Steve Terry.

"This project...could be seen as the time where Vermont took its first step toward energy independence," he said. "This is a trend that's only going to grow."

However, those comments were met with a number of concerns from the wind farm's prospective neighbors.

Among the speakers were five members of the Fitzgerald family, who own a neighboring property off North Road and were leery of how the wind farm would impact their views and property value.

During that discussion Tina Fitzgerald said the project is proposed for land inside the town's Scenic Ridgeline District-- which prohibits structures or buildings-and asked how that was possible.

It's possible because PSB's process supercedes local zoning, responded project engineer Peter Cross. However, he added the process would have a discovery phase, site visit, and likely another public meeting to solicit comment from the state board.

Even so, that lack of local control did not sit well with former Selectman and abutter Dan Fitzgerald, who brought a petition with 81 signatures opposing the wind farm to the meeting.

"It's a great system to have someone come in and override any regulations that you have," he said. "Are they going to come in and pay our taxes too?"

Terry disagreed with that characterization. He conceded that it's a state process, but added the board does listen to public comments and is sometimes swayed by them.

"I've seen important projects turned down because people spoke out," he said. "It's still Vermont."

Another recurring concern was over noise. Residents were concerned it would be problem, but the project consultants said it wouldn't be noticeable, adding they have findings to that effect that would be included with the PSB application.

There were also a number of issues based on anecdotal and Internet reports. Asked about possible health hazards of the project, consultant Martha Staskus confirmed that there is such thing as a "shadow flicker" effect, which may cause epileptic seizures under certain conditions. However, she added it can only happen under the shadow of the turbine itself, which will be placed atop a mountain ridge that's 3,400 feet-or two-thirds a of mile-from the nearest house.

Past that, Staskus would not confirm a number of other suggestions on how the project could potentially be hazard or nuisance for the community, saying instead that the U.S. Department of Energy has a lot of information about wind power online and that it's more "balanced" than some of the sources that were being cited.

"I don't mean to be flip at all but...I've been told that wind turbines cause mad cow disease," she said.

In terms of potential benefits, the wind farm was anticipated as adding substantial value to the town's Grand List, though the exact figures were not available. When the topic came up, Dan Fitzgerald said they may also have to factor-in reduced value for neighboring parcels-though Staskus said there's documented cases that suggest otherwise.

Over the course of the meeting there were also a couple of residents who spoke in favor of the project. One was Brock Rouse, who advised against putting too much stock in online rumors, saying an internet search could easily find similar claims about the malignant effects of common items like cell phones and telephone lines.

The issue is change, he continued, A lot of people don't like change, but this looks like a good one, he said. Similarly, Duane Rouse praised the applicants for trying to invest in renewable energy.

"In the end, we need people like to this to help us get away from oil and gas," he said. .

The Harrisons, who own Harrison Concrete Construction and Redi-Mix Corporation, started public outreach on the project last spring by contacting a number of local boards and state regulatory bodies.

The family came before the Milton Selectboard last May and was talking about three turbines on the ridge at that point. Asked about how the other two turbines came into the picture, Harrison said they were subsequently contacted by a neighboring landowner about the possibility of putting a couple of more nearby, across the town line in Georgia.

The project application allows for up to five turbines on the ridge, and Harrison indicated they're unlikely to add more, saying the relatively small size of this project makes it a fit for Georgia Mountain.

After the meeting, he re-iterated that it's important to add more locally produced and renewable energy to the state's portfolio, adding he was content to let the process take its course.

"If it's deemed a project for the public good we'll get our permit, and if it's not, we won't," he said.


Source: http://www.miltonindy.com/0...

APR 2 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/20429-wind-farm-permitting-expected-to-begin-shortly
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