Windmill plans tied up
by Jack Deming
Oct 25, 2012 | 5542 views | 12 12 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
READSBORO- A plan to install 15 new wind turbines on national forest land in Readsboro and Searsburg has been approved by the US Forest Service, the Vermont Public Service Board, and the respective towns involved. But the nearly seven-year-old plan is facing staunch opposition from a formidable Don Quixote, tying the project up in US District Court.

The proposed plan would allow Deerfield Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Iberdrola Renewables, the second largest wind operator in the United States, to erect the windmills along the ridges to the east and west of Route 8 in Searsburg and Readsboro, on National Forest land. Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE), along with the Wilderness Society and Defenders of Wildlife, are trying to block the plan. VCE recently filed a motion for summary judgment in US District Court, claiming the project planning did not correctly carry out evaluation processes required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Annette Smith, executive director of VCE, says that VCE is also concerned about the site the project is set to use. According to VCE’s attorney Patrick Bernal, “This is the first instance we are aware of that the federal government has approved an industrial wind project, or power plant of any kind, in the middle of a national forest. We think that’s a startling development.” VCE believes this could open the door for all of Vermont’s US Forest land to be used for industrial purposes.

VCE also says the windmills would be located within two miles of the George Aiken Wilderness. “We know from experience worldwide that the wind from these turbines can go out from three to six miles,” said Smith. “Certainly the noise would impact the legal definition of wilderness, which is solitude, places where the footprint of man is not seen.”

The group’s main complaints come in what they see as shortcomings in the environmental impact statement completed in 2006 by the Forest Service. Smith says the US Forest Service essentially turned over the evaluation of aesthetics and noise to Iberdrola by using the same paid experts they used in their company’s evaluations, and failed to place noise monitors in the nearby wilderness. The group is also concerned with the amount of blasting performed at the project sites, citing possible impacts on groundwater, soil, and drinking water supplies. VCE also complains Deerfield Wind has failed to look at possible alternatives farther away from the wilderness.

Green Mountain National Forest spokesman Ethan Ready declined to comment on VCE’s complaints, citing the ongoing litigation.

Each town has come to a signed agreement with Deerfield Wind for the project to go forward. In the agreement with Readsboro, it is stated “The town has determined the project has the potential to be a net benefit, to provide much needed revenue to the town, and is an environmentally sound energy option for the state of Vermont.”

This is a belief Readsboro Selectboard member, and staunch windmill supporter Teddy Hopkins supports. “I would like to see us being self-sufficient stateside. It’s also better to have diversity so you have many companies and many sources contributing to energy.”

Hopkins also cited the financial benefits of the project. Each of Readsboro’s seven windmills will operate at two megawatts. Once they begin generating power, Deerfield Wind will pay the town $11,000 per megawatt annually, for a total of $154,000 per year. “That’s a pretty big chunk of money,” said Hopkins. “(It’s) about 25% of our municipal tax and could be used in many different ways, such as lowering taxes or building a new town garage we need.”

The Vermont Public Service Board approved the project as well in April 2009, with set criteria for Deerfield Wind to follow, including entering into long-term stable-priced power contracts with Vermont utilities. Other terms include Deerfield completing multiyear studies on the impact of the project on bear, bird, and bat populations, as well as detailed cost estimates of decommissioning, and submittal of a noise monitoring plan to be implemented during the first full year of operation.

The Certificate of Public Good issued to Deerfield Wind LLC explains that the board judges the construction of the wind turbines will “promote the general good of the state of Vermont.”

Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola Renewables, says that Deerfield Wind will not only benefit these towns, but also the state and private business. “Deerfield Wind will be a substantial investment that will result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in local property tax payments to the towns of Searsburg and Readsboro, and a comparable level of payments to the state of Vermont for education property taxes,” said Copleman. “Additionally, many significant business opportunities are created for local contractors during construction and several local jobs will continue through the project's operation.”

Copleman also added that Deerfield Wind has already invested in many Vermont-based firms to help study this project.

The court case is currently in the waiting process, as the US Forest Service’s reply to VCE’s motion is due to the court by December 12.

Iberdrola is allowed to add to the United States’ case in support of the project, but not repeat the United States’ case in their motion, due January 11.

Judge John Murtha will hear oral arguments in the case on January 28. Any appeals made after that will take the case to US Circuit Court in New York City.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Billy Fromont
October 31, 2012
for once this is finally happening! IT CAN AND WILL BE DONE!! Those wind turbines don't harm the planet, now is the time for cleaner renewable energy. How is it that you can build a nuclear plant but not wind turbines? some people are just so stupid, Nuclear energy stays on the site for a very long time.. while wind could be taken down yet doesn't hurt the environment!! Humans are idiots, they really are!
Wayne Andrews
October 26, 2012
For once I agree with Balonius, no matter who is in govt nothing gets done although I feel more receptive to the conservatives who are business minded. Back to the windmill issue.

Billslycat makes a few good points as well but I doubt that any permitting entity is going to deny any manufacturing permit to a given company because it may upset the business practices of another. The free spirit of business will weed out the week companies and allow the strong to survive. Maybe the windmills might not be around in the future for lack of govt backing. But more believable is that, like all other mechanical products, the product improves in time. Should new advances be made in the field the locations of new windmill technologies will be established and with not have to go through these long winded (pardon the pun) procedures.

Common sense tells me the windmill companies have to place the units where the wind exists and not where John Q. Pubic wants them. Only the liberals could think of placing windmill first; out of the way second; behind a ledge, third: deep in a valley from view and expect these units to spin.
Tom G
November 07, 2012

Have some more cool ail
Bill Heller
October 26, 2012
If we need to fight global warming we need solutions that work. However, INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ARE A SHAM AND DO NOT PROVIDE CLEAN ENERGY! Not one coal or gas plant the world over has been decommissioned because of IWTs...and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels is their whole purpose. To quote an expert: "Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don't go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal-or gas-fired generators (called "cycling"). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don't, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase." This is happening worldwide, and in places like Colorado and Texas where CO2 and power plant pollution have increased since installing wind farms:

The wind industry is built on crony capitalism, it is the only way it can exist. Taxpayer money builds them and power companies are mandated to buy wind generated power at much higher rates than conventionally produced power. There is no true benefit, except to wind power companies, politicians and lobbyists.
Jim Wiegand
October 26, 2012
Excellent Comment
Jim Wiegand
October 26, 2012
News from the "Green Energy" Killing Fields……………………………………………………….. In the Spring of 2006 there were 214 free flying whooping cranes. In the spring of 2012 only 192 were counted in their winter habitat before migrating north. It was also known that several others were living outside the survey area. Over this period of time, 228 whooping cranes have fledged from their nests and were added to the population. Yet the population has still declined. As of today, approximately 250 of the Aransas-Wood buffalo Whooping cranes have died since 2006 and almost all are unaccounted for. The average mortality for this period has been about 41 cranes per year or close to 20 percent. Most of all there has been NO NET GAIN in the population. For decades prior to 2006 their numbers had increased about 4 percent per year.

Since 2006 thousands of wind turbines have been installed in the migration corridor they must use each year.

At the 580 MW Altamont Pass, studies have shown that wind turbines kill golden eagles at rate of 0.13 – 0.2 per MW per year (Smallwood and Thelander 2004 Chapter 3 Table 3-11.). This equals 75-116 eagles being smashed out of the skies over Altamont each year. Wind turbine strikes were also shown to be the number one cause of eagle mortality.

What the public does not understand is that Altamont Pass is not unique because at every wind farm located in eagle habitat, there are the same deadly combination of circumstances, wind currents, prey species, soaring eagles, and huge blades ripping through the air hundreds of feet up. Eagles forage over hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles. For this reason wind farms have a mortality footprint that far exceeds their boundaries.

The industry is well aware of this and that is why a disastrous population decline for the golden eagle has not been disclosed and cumulative impact studies for this species have been avoided. I am sorry to report that I have uncovered evidence of a population decline in the 80-90% range covering 20-25% of the state. In recent years there have been several surveys conducted in over 2500 square miles of eagle habitat in Southern CA. Most of the habitat has been abandoned. In one area 12 nests were found but no eagles. In another 1500 square mile area, 34 nests were found and 33 were empty.

There are two primary reasons for this decline 1) wind farm mortality with a deadly footprint that far exceeds their boundaries and 2) The two-faced USFWS, which has meaningless ” voluntary guidelines” for the wind industry.

Jim Wiegand
October 26, 2012
The wind industry and their so called hired experts, routinely manipulate studies for a desired outcome. Here is perfect example. At the Criterion Wind Project in Maryland, Post-Construction mortality monitoring studies were conducted for this project.

Description of Methodology used from the study............ "The monitoring study period was from April 5 to November 15, 2011. Search plots were established around all 28 turbines in the project and the carcass search schedule was for daily searches at all turbines (weather and safety permitting). Search plot size varied in shape and size, due to habitat constraints, but in most cases areas up to approximately 40-50 m (~130-165 ft) from the turbines were cleared of vegetation for access and construction purposes and this area was used as the search plot. Parallel transects were spaced and delineated approximately 5 m (~16 ft) apart within the search plot and surveyors systematically walked the transects while scanning the ground for fatalities or injured birds or bats."

Looks impressive but it is nothing but a snow job. The cleared search plots were only the size of search plots originally used on the small turbines at Altamont which averaged 50 meters from the turbines. By comparison a 65kw turbine has a rotor sweep 38 times smaller and much slower blade tip speeds which result in greatly reduced body impact distances. The small turbines with 22 ft blades reach about 80 feet into the air. By comparison the Liberty 2.5 MW Wind Turbines installed at the Criterion project are 400 or more feet tall and have 150 ft blades that reach out further than the mortality search plots. A proper search area of 200 meters out from each turbine, checked daily with trained dogs, would have found many times more fatalities. Many Larger birds that do not die immediately can travel hundreds or thousands of meters. Others upon impact are hit and travel like a baseball far outside study areas. This is especially true for new generation of large wind turbines that reach 400-500 feet into the air. Based on the flawed methodology used, the true death rate is far greater and likely to be at least 3-4 times what was reported.

Similar bogus studies like this one have been used all over the country to conceal bird and bat mortality. These were also the types of studies created by the wind industry so they could proclaim to the world that their new turbines were safer.

Harry Smedlap
October 25, 2012
Once again further proof that Vermont is the country's largest outdoor insane asylum.

Only when we all live in a cave and huddle around a candle will these people ever be happy. Even then they'll find some reason to complain and file lawsuits about the way the candle was made.

I am a flat lander, for the past 47 years only paying property taxes on our vacation without any request for any services.

But I am sick of the new Vermont mentality.

People come to your state and want to build a winery and can't have wedding receptions after dusk because car headlights might spoil the momentary view from a distant neighbor.

People oppose expanding an airport runway because it will change the Valley.

People oppose ANYTHING Mount Snow wants to do that might let it survive and attract customers.

So go ahead kill the windmill plan and all the others, just further confirmation that the Valley is slowly dying.

Stock up on candles for your cave.

Wendy Ingraham
October 26, 2012
This is not a "new Vermont mentality"...this is the mentality that made Vermont one of the most beautiful states in the that attracted folks like yourself...who come here for the beauty and quaintness and yet want to, over time, change it into what they escaped in NY, CT, etc.

There is newer windmill technology that can mitigate these concerns, very real ones, raised by the various entities opposing this project. Take a step back, let those who know better decide the greater good...which includes nature, that very thing that drew out of staters here in the first place.
tony pike
October 26, 2012
Would make one wonder what would have happened 50 or 60 years ago if all of these permitting processes were in place at the start of the ski industry. Maybe the state would still be in the pristine condition the antis are trying to promote. This wilderness designation has always bothered me. If I remember there was a trade off somehow for this plot of land, AIken, for land in the Glastonbury area that I would call some closer to wilderness than on top of Searsburg.
Wayne Andrews
October 25, 2012
By reading this article one wonders why any Town would allow National Forest land in town in the first place. Always good intentions in the beginning however the liberal do-gooders continue to needlessly tie matters up in court. First logging then ATV's and now future power sources.

We have a chance to vote for a change in politics this November and I think it a wise idea.
Balonius Maximus
October 26, 2012
If you think putting more republicans in office will do anything to improve Vermont towns or Vermont forests, the nail isn't the only thing that has been hit on the head.

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