Residents of Sheffield in the Northeast Kingdom are looking across the border to New Hampshire for encouragement as they battle a proposed wind power project in their community.
In Lyman, N.H., a town of 500 people near the Connecticut River, residents came out in force to turn away the same Massachusetts wind developer who wants to build up to 24 industrial turbines on Hardscrabble Mountain near Sheffield.
UPC Wind Management LLC gave up on its plan to install a test tower on Gardner Mountain near Lyman after the community strongly opposed it and urged the local zoning board of adjustment to deny the application. Reading the landscape, UPC withdrew its application for the test tower in the proposed 20-turbine project in January.
Similar grassroots activism is taking root in Sheffield and neighboring villages, where residents call themselves the Ridge Protectors and are circulating petitions against the project and erecting "Save our ridgeline" signs along the roadsides.
But New Hampshire has something that Vermont lacks: Strong local control. And that could mean the difference between the fate of Gardner Mountain in New Hampshire and Hardscrabble Mountain in Vermont.
"The New Hampshire government is loath to step in and tell the locals what to do," Lisa Linowes, one of the residents who fought the Gardner project, said in an interview. In New Hampshire, local officials hold most of the cards, and in Vermont, developers apply to the state's Public Service Board.
Renewable energy will play a role in both Vermont and New Hampshire, but only on a scale that works for each state. Big wind projects on ridgelines don't fit that scale.
Residents of Sheffield have written a letter to Gov. Jim Douglas, asking him for policies that would restrict industrial wind turbines on private mountains, similar to restrictions on state land. They want to know why a wind factory with 330-foot tall towers and transmission lines should be allowed on their community's ridgelines if the local people don't want it.
"For the tiny contribution these turbines make to the power grid, we do not believe you can risk turning the wildest and most beautiful section of our state into a tourist "won't go zone," a place where people seeking a better way of life will not put down new roots or money and a place whose natural resources and beauty are permanently compromised," they wrote in their letter to Douglas.
Lyman, N.H., won. Maybe Sheffield, Vt., can, too.