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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Commercial wind energy project proposed

Timber company seeks to install three temporary towers in Windham, Grafton

—An American subsidiary of a global energy firm and a New Hampshire-based timber company are teaming up on a proposal to install a commercial wind energy project on 5,000 acres of woodland that straddle Grafton, Townshend, and Windham near Route 121.The proposed site of the wind farm is owned by Meadowsend Timberlands Limited (MTL), a family-owned timber and forestry company based in New London, N.H., that owns about 30,000 acres of woodlands in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.Also involved in the project is Atlantic Wind, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, LLC, the U.S. division of Iberdrola, S.A., a Spanish energy company that has invested heavily in wind energy around the world.The town of Windham currently restricts the development of utility-sized wind turbines. According to its town plan adopted in 2008: “It is the policy of the Town of Windham that commercial wind energy systems are prohibited throughout all of the town.”A public hearing is scheduled for July 11 in Windham to discuss the project. Another hearing is planned in Grafton.According to an application notice sent to the Vermont Public Service Board last week, Atlantic Wind wants to erect three, nearly 200 feet tall, temporary steel towers to measure the wind on top of a ridgeline near Stiles Brook. Two towers would be in Windham, the other would be in Grafton. Existing logging roads would be used to access the sites.They would be located near an existing right-of-way for an electric transmission line, which would also provide access to the towers.That transmission line is Vermont Electric Power Co.’s Southern Loop, the main power corridor between Brattleboro and Bennington and a key part of the New England electrical grid.Atlantic Wind plans to take wind measurements for up to three years, and gather sufficient data to decide whether there is enough wind to justify erecting turbines there.In a letter sent to local media organizations written by MTL Managing Partner Steve French and Managing Forester Jeremy Turner, they said that “it is becoming very clear to us that managing this property for timber alone is not economically sustainable over the long-term. If we are going to keep this land intact, we must look to maximize its other assets.”One way to do that, they wrote, was through wind power. They maintain that wind power “has emerged as a possibility for us to continue to thrive while maintaining this land for generations to come.”Iberdrola Renewables owns and operates a 24-megawatt wind farm in Lempster, N.H., and is trying to build Deerfield Wind, a 30-megawatt wind farm in Searsburg and Readsboro near the existing Searsburg Wind Energy Facility.The Deerfield Wind Project has received approval from the Vermont Public Service Board, and from the U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land on which the wind farm would be sited. The Forest Service approval is currently being appealed.Meadowsend also has experience in hosting wind projects in Vermont. The 16-turbine, 40-megawatt Sheffield Wind project is sited on land in the Northeast Kingdom owned by the timber company.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #160 (Wednesday, July 11, 2012).

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