GRAFTON—About 125 residents from Windham and Grafton crowded into the White Chapel Monday night to hear from a panel of six speakers to discuss a proposed wind farm that straddles both towns.
The meeting was organized by Liisa Kissel of Friends of Grafton Heritage, with state Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham, as moderator.
Iberdrola, operating as Atlantic Wind LLC, is a Spanish company and the second-largest wind company in the United States.
The firm seeks to erect three meteorological test towers (METs) to gauge the site’s suitability for installing wind turbines.
Two of the towers are in Windham, and the third is in Grafton within less than a mile of the closest houses.
Kissel noted that this was the first meeting in Grafton since Iberdrola first surveyed the private property in 2011, and came before the Grafton and Windham Selectboards in June 2012, that the “other” side had been heard.
She said Iberdrola has also been courting residents and giving tours of the Lempster, N.H., site on four occasions, once for town officials and three times for the public, as well as distributing pamphlets door-to-door.
Currently, a petition is in the works that calls for amending the Grafton Town Plan to ban large-scale renewable projects, Kissel said.
Windham Selectboard Chair Mary Boyer said her town’s town plan prohibits such projects altogether. The town plan clearly prohibits any use of its ridgelines for any commercial wind energy, citing its sensitivity as a natural habitat, but does not prohibit MET towers.
Benjamin Luce, assistant professor of natural sciences and physics at Lyndon State College, was the keynote speaker, providing a comprehensive look at the pros and cons of building wind turbines on ridge tops in Vermont.
Luce is a founder and former director of the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, former president of the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, and a former renewable energy program manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Luce saw successful adoption of a renewable energy standard and a production tax credit for wind power in New Mexico that led to the installation of several hundred megawatts of wind generation on the Eastern Plains of New Mexico. So he has seen the successful side of wind energy, he said.
But Luce questioned whether ridge-top wind turbines were the right solution to the climate crisis for Vermont, given the return in energy, as well as cost effectiveness.
Laying out his research in an abbreviated presentation, he cited concerns of a very expensive renewable energy that, among other things, depended on commodities like cement, copper, and steel which have seen a sharp rise in cost over the last decade. He noted solar energy production was not dependent on such volatile markets.
His other arguments against the suitability of ridge-top wind turbines in the state included three words from a survey that describe what people come to Vermont to see — “unspoiled, beautiful, mountains” — qualities that are inconsistent with wind turbines along the ridges of the Green Mountains.
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