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Caution in the wind

Vermont must move in a measured, thoughtful way as it considers the potential and pitfalls of wind power.

Vermont must move in a measured, thoughtful way as it considers the potential and pitfalls of wind power.

We must carefully assess the impact of 330-foot-tall wind towers with blinking lights on our ridgelines. We must also look at our energy portfolio and decide on a responsible course.

The Governor's Commission on Wind Energy Regulatory Policy is part of the effort to shape state policy on wind power before wind power shapes the state.

Chairman Richard White, a Derby banker, says the commission's job is specific. It looks at the regulatory process for siting wind generation facilities. Members will travel to Pennsylvania to see a large-scale wind farm and hold public hearings in Vermont.

The mission is to investigate whether Section 248 of Vermont's utility laws, enacted in 1969 to deal with generation plants and transmission lines, is adequate to evaluate today's commercial wind proposals.

Section 248 is similar to the Act 250 land-use law, but applies only to utilities. It was introduced long before industrial wind turbines were anticipated for our mountaintops. Since then, wind generation has become big business and wind developers have set their sights on Vermont's ridgelines.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group envisions 272 turbines to produce 15 percent of the state's power. This extreme proposal has even wind proponents shaking their heads.

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Vermont must move in a measured, thoughtful way as it considers the potential and pitfalls of wind power.

We must carefully assess the impact of 330-foot-tall wind towers with blinking lights on our ridgelines. We must also look at our energy portfolio and decide on a responsible course.

The Governor's Commission on Wind Energy Regulatory Policy is part of the effort to shape state policy on wind power before wind power shapes the state.

Chairman Richard White, a Derby banker, says the commission's job is specific. It looks at the regulatory process for siting wind generation facilities. Members will travel to Pennsylvania to see a large-scale wind farm and hold public hearings in Vermont.

The mission is to investigate whether Section 248 of Vermont's utility laws, enacted in 1969 to deal with generation plants and transmission lines, is adequate to evaluate today's commercial wind proposals.

Section 248 is similar to the Act 250 land-use law, but applies only to utilities. It was introduced long before industrial wind turbines were anticipated for our mountaintops. Since then, wind generation has become big business and wind developers have set their sights on Vermont's ridgelines.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group envisions 272 turbines to produce 15 percent of the state's power. This extreme proposal has even wind proponents shaking their heads.

Vermont rightly prides itself on its environmental ideals and activism, but the VPIRG proposal is out of scale and out of touch with Vermont.

However, five projects of about 90 turbines have been proposed, with only one project far enough along to go before the Public Service Board. That is East Haven, a plan for four turbines on a former radar base.

The others are the Lowell Mountain Range, Little Equinox Mountain, Glebe Mountain and an expansion of Vermont's only wind farm, the 11-turbine Searsburg facility.

In the affected communities, the proposals have polarized people, neighbor against neighbor, environmentalist against environmentalist. At least one of the proposals -- the Lowell project of 27 turbines -- has met serious resistance as the range is highly visible for miles and is a defining characteristic of this Northeast Kingdom region.

Vermont needs to move on forming a sound policy on wind power, but the mountains and the prevailing winds will be here long after this generation has passed. Let's tread carefully and respectfully.

It is our responsibility to leave this state in better shape than when we came, and it is our duty to slow down and take wind power apart, piece by piece.

Three hearings

If you want to have a say about the rules guiding the siting of wind towers in Vermont, tell the commission. Its report is due Dec. 15 and there will be three public hearings:

-- Oct. 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Rutland Holiday Inn.

-- Oct. 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at St. Johnsbury Elementary School.

-- Nov. 16 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Pavilion Building Auditorium in Montpelier.


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SEP 30 2004
https://www.windaction.org/posts/276-caution-in-the-wind
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