Vermont wary of wind project

Posted Jan. 02, 2012, at 9:33 p.m.

COLCHESTER, Vt. — The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is wary of plans for a large wind power project that would be based around Grandpa’s Knob in Castleton, the site of the nation’s first large scale wind-power project .

Agency Secretary of Deb Markowitz said her staff met recently with the owner of Reunion Power of Manchester and his consultant and outlined several potential problems.

“We’re not looking at a specific project. We’re just taking a look at the area in general. And what we let them know is that — unlike what we saw in Lowell — there are numerous rare species and state significant natural communities right in this area,” Markowitz said.

Deputy ANR Secretary Chris Recchia wrote in an internal email that the project is planned for a section of the Taconic Range that the state considers a rare and irreplaceable natural area.

During World War II a wind turbine was erected on Grandpa’s Knob. A plaque installed there calls it the birthplace of the modern wind energy industry.

Reunion Power would like to erect up to 20 turbines in the area.

The company’s Steve Eisenberg wouldn’t discuss the details of the state’s position. He said the locations of the turbines and the roads haven’t been determined.

“Given the less-than-fully-fleshed-out nature of our site plan it’s really not wise for us to comment, although we do take seriously what the agency did tell us,” he told Vermont Public Radio.

In October a large-scale wind project in Sheffield began producing power. Another project, in Lowell, is under construction

Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who is skeptical of large-scale wind development and has been critical of the state’s position on other projects, used the Vermont access to public records law to obtain the state’s comments on the Grandpa’s Knob project.

“I think this is showing that ANR is trying to do better than on past projects,” Smith said. “For instance, they called the developers in rather than waiting for the developer to come to them. And they have studied this area and noted, as many others have, that this is an important, unfragmented habitat block that should be conserved not developed.”

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