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Where is wind leading the state?

"It's important that people realize the scope of them, the number and the size," (Gov.) Douglas said. "We need to slow down. This is a very important decision."

With industrial wind developments being proposed for ridgelines from the Northeast Kingdom to Glebe Mountain near Londonderry to the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont seems to be fumbling along without clear guideposts.

Disputes over the future of the state's defining mountain ridges are being left to small communities and big wind developers. Petitions and protest signs on one side; wind measurement towers on the other. Eventually, the two sides end up in technical hearings at the Public Service Board.

Before hearings into wind projects get rolling with lawyers hired and expert witnesses called, Vermont needs to have some guiding principles. Sticking wind utility plants on top of our mountains would be a fundamental change for this state.

The Public Service Board recently created draft rules to steer its hearings, based on recommendations from last year's Commission on Wind Energy Regulatory Policy. They are overdue and bring some clarity, but they are about procedure -- not policy.

Beyond the technical criteria of bringing a proposed wind development to the board, there must be leadership on the overall issue of wind generation in this state so that industrialization of the ridgelines doesn't just happen to Vermont -- and wind turbines, almost 400 feet tall, don't just start appearing piecemeal on our mountains.

Gov. Jim Douglas made a significant step... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

With industrial wind developments being proposed for ridgelines from the Northeast Kingdom to Glebe Mountain near Londonderry to the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont seems to be fumbling along without clear guideposts.

Disputes over the future of the state's defining mountain ridges are being left to small communities and big wind developers. Petitions and protest signs on one side; wind measurement towers on the other. Eventually, the two sides end up in technical hearings at the Public Service Board.

Before hearings into wind projects get rolling with lawyers hired and expert witnesses called, Vermont needs to have some guiding principles. Sticking wind utility plants on top of our mountains would be a fundamental change for this state.

The Public Service Board recently created draft rules to steer its hearings, based on recommendations from last year's Commission on Wind Energy Regulatory Policy. They are overdue and bring some clarity, but they are about procedure -- not policy.

Beyond the technical criteria of bringing a proposed wind development to the board, there must be leadership on the overall issue of wind generation in this state so that industrialization of the ridgelines doesn't just happen to Vermont -- and wind turbines, almost 400 feet tall, don't just start appearing piecemeal on our mountains.

Gov. Jim Douglas made a significant step toward leadership on wind power by sending out a message earlier this month that he supports smaller, "Vermont scale" wind projects and he prefers a go-slow approach to large-scale developments. The governor should seize this issue.

Like Douglas, many Vermonters understand the merits of pursuing renewable energy but they are reluctant to sign on to commercial wind turbines on ridgelines. What does a 398-foot wind turbine look like? How about up to 35 of them strung out over parallel ridges, as UPC Wind Management, LLC of Newton, Mass., has proposed for Sutton and Sheffield in the Northeast Kingdom? Commercial wind turbines are, as the governor said, "large."

"It's important that people realize the scope of them, the number and the size," Douglas said. "We need to slow down. This is a very important decision."

At least one environmental group, the Vermont Natural Resources Council, has offered a baseline for discussion about large-scale wind energy that seems well-anchored in the state's strong environmental values.

Among its recommendations, the council urges against developing wind energy on sites that "have a low level of human disturbance and development, that do not have existing public roads or infrastructure, or that do not have intensive development."

It warns against placing wind turbines on "ridgelines with steep slopes, uneven topography, or large bedrock outcrops"; on "inventoried roadless areas on National Forest;" in "natural areas, fragile areas or wilderness areas;" in "areas that currently receive a high level of backcountry use, especially within the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail corridors;" and areas that are "designated as scenic corridors or ridgeline protection areas."

Whether you agree or disagree with the Vermont Natural Resources Council, at least it has offered some thoughtful ideas that deserve more discussion. The council is tapping into the core of this state, which is what the Douglas administration should be doing. The governor has thrown up the caution sign on large-scale wind development. Now he and the Legislature ought to take the initiative and guide the state on this critical issue. Find out more For the Vermont Natural Resources Council's position paper on wind energy, go to www.vnrc.org/article/view/5396/1/642 .


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OCT 17 2005
https://www.windaction.org/posts/269-where-is-wind-leading-the-state
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