2/2/11 Baby it's SNOW outside. Why not make some popcorn and sit back and watch these SHORT videos of how the Wind Siting Council helped create the rules that will go into effect on March 1st unless Walker's bill is passed. . For some it's like watching paint dry! For others it's like watching businessmen driven by profit hold your future in their hands.
CLICK on the image below to see how the PSC came up the number of hours of wind turbine shadow flicker a household must endure before they can complain to the wind company
Click on the image below to hear a PSC Wind Siting Council member suggest the setback around a wind turbine be called a 'courtesy setback' rather than a 'safety setback' because she does not believe safety is an issue
Click on the image below to hear why the Wind Siting Council would allow local government to reduce the setbacks and make them less than the PSC's saftey guidelines
Click on the image below to hear why wind developers don't want to tell people in a community that they are planning a project in their community
CLICK here to watch the PSC's Wind Siting Council unable to answer the most basic of questions. How much louder is the 25 decibel increase they have recommended?
EXTRA CREDIT READING:
“I saw those flames go out the door with no smoke and I said: ‘The barn’s on fire!’ And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
ABOVE: A barn at the Nelson farm in Lowell burned down in August. State police couldn't determine a cause. Don Nelson thinks the barn was torched because of his opposition to the Lowell wind project.
By John Dillon
Vermont Public Radio News, www.vpr.net
February 1, 2011
(Host) This week, the Public Service Board opens hearings on Vermont’s largest wind development – a proposal for 21 wind turbines that would stand 440 feet tall on a ridgeline in Lowell.
Developers hoped to avoid some of the controversy that other projects have faced by asking for, and winning, Lowell voters’ support last Town Meeting Day. But it hasn’t been that easy.
In the first part of our series on wind’s future in Vermont, VPR’s John Dillon explains how passionate, and personal, the debate still is in Lowell.
(Dillon) Don Nelson is a retired dairy farmer. He’s a slight, wiry guy with white hair and a bad back from years milking cows.
The farm where Nelson and his wife, Shirley, live is far up a dirt road, snug up against the Lowell Mountains. They’ve fought wind turbine development here for almost ten years. The first company eventually called it quits.
But the project was revived by Green Mountain Power. The Nelsons continued to fight and they wonder whether they’ve been targeted as a result. Don Nelson remembers Friday the 13th of August last year.
(Nelson) “I saw those flames go out the door with no smoke and I said: ‘The barn’s on fire!’ And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
(Dillon) Nelson had slept past his normal dawn rising. Soon after he poured coffee, he saw his red barn erupt in flames.
(Nelson) “It didn’t go bang. It went ‘woooom!’ And then ‘wooom!’ like that. And the first one, it forced the flames right through the cracks in the roofing.”
(Dillon) Balls of flame leveled the barn within 30 minutes. State police couldn’t determine a cause. Nelson thinks his barn was torched. And he thinks his opposition to the wind project might have been why.
(Nelson) “All I know is that it’s a $160 million project and the town of Lowell is going to get $400,000-$500,000 a year. Money changes people. I don’t know. How do I know? All I know is: I know the barn was set, and I know that we didn’t set it.”
(Dillon) The embers of the barn fire cooled last August. But tensions in Lowell and other communities remain high over wind development and the future of Vermont’s ridgelines.
On one side are people like the Nelsons. They argue the projects will hurt tourism and damage fragile mountain habitat.
But many others see economic and environmental value. Alden Warner is a selectman in Lowell. He says Vermont has to take responsibility for generating some of its own electricity.
(Warner) “Our earth’s supply of energy sources is going to be depleted. The millions of gallons that are being burned every day – we’ve got to do something to start getting prepared for our energy.”
(Dillon) Warner is also the Lowell fire chief. He thinks the Nelson fire probably was intentionally set, but who did it and why remains a mystery.
(Warner) “I would really be disappointed if I found out that if somebody that was pro wind turbines would actually take something to the degree of actually destroying somebody’s property just to get even.”
(Dillon) Warner says deep divisions remain in town. He’s a big booster of the project – but one of his brothers is involved in the opposition group.
Still, GMP won Lowell’s support on Town Meeting Day. The town will be rewarded with annual payments that could cut property taxes by a third or more.
Opponents say the impacts go far beyond Lowell.
Steve Wright is a former state Fish and Wildlife Commissioner and member of the Conservation Commission in Craftsbury. Many areas in Craftsbury overlook the Lowell range. Wright said he thought ridgeline wind generation was benign until he started reading the 1,300 page application GMP filed with the Public Service Board.
(Wright) “I read one segment in there that flipped me over completely and that was the segment on the amount of road building and alteration of the 450 million year old Cretaceous era ridgeline which currently basically has no roads there. That’s what turned me around.”
(Dillon) Trees would have to be cleared for four miles of new road. State biologists warn about damage to critical bear habitat. Wright says the mountain will have to be blasted and leveled as much as 40 feet in places. And he believes the beauty of the area will be damaged.
(Wright) “People come to many towns in Vermont, I believe, for the way these towns look. And we get some push back often on the view not meaning anything. I contest that: why have we worked for years to create a body of legislation that essentially protects the view?”
(Dillon) Wright refers to Act 250, the billboard law, and other efforts to preserve the state’s iconic character. But another land ethic runs fiercely through Vermont – and the Northeast Kingdom in particular – protection of property rights.
(Pion) “Everybody wants to have a say in everybody else’s land. And I have a problem with that.”
(Dillon) Richard Pion is chairman of the Lowell selectboard. He says landowners have the right to do what they want with their property. A neighbor steers his tractor away from Pion’s front yard, where Pion points out a few of the turbines will be visible. But he’s not worried about the view.
(Pion) “Once these are built for six months people won’t pay any attention to them. Won’t be any worse that looking at the ski resort.”
(Dillon) Back in Don and Shirley Nelson’s living room, a clock chimes the hour as they reflect on the personal toll of their opposition. Shirley Nelson says the barn fire put many on edge. Don Nelson worries about the future.
(Nelson) Some people couldn’t stand to live here. Some people think this is heaven, but it won’t be when this is done. It’s going to change the character of the Northeast Kingdom forever.
(Dillon) The Nelsons and others fighting the project will be at the Public Service Board this week. But they’re not hopeful. They point out that the state agency that represents electric consumers recently reversed itself and endorsed the Lowell wind project.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon.
(Host) Tomorrow, we take a look at the science behind wind energy, and how much wind development is needed to effectively reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
OPINIONS DIFFER ON WIND POWER'S POLLUTION REDUCTION
Source: Vermont Public Radio News, www.vpr.net
(Host) Supporters and opponents of commercial-scale wind energy projects on Vermont’s ridgelines use a lot of statistics and facts to argue their very different sides of the debate.
So it’s difficult to sort out how much carbon pollution might be cut if there were big wind turbines in the mountains. Or whether the wind generators could replace bigger electric plants, such as Vermont Yankee.
As part of a series on the future of wind energy in Vermont, VPR’s John Dillon explains the complexities.
(Dillon) Leading environmental groups say Vermont has a “moral obligation” to combat climate change. And they say developing wind projects on the state’s ridgelines is the way to make progress.
Brian Shupe of the Vermont Natural Resources Council says all that’s needed is some planning.
(Shupe) “The lack of a coherent energy plan in the state has not allowed Vermont to adequately prepare for the closing of Vermont Yankee, or to address climate change in a meaningful way.”
(Dillon) Those are the twin goals of many Vermont environmentalists: Shut down Yankee and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But can industrial-scale wind do the job? Can it replace Yankee? To answer that, we need to step back for a moment for a lesson on how the electricity grid works.
Yankee is what’s known as a “baseload” plant. That means – barring an unexpected shutdown – it cranks 620 megawatts into the New England grid all day, every day, all year.
But the wind doesn’t blow every day, so wind power can’t be baseload. It’s known as intermittent.
ISO New England, which oversees the regional energy market, says more wind will not replace nuclear reactors like Yankee, or the big greenhouse gas polluters – coal-fired plants.
(Luce) “I’m Ben Luce. I’m a professor at Lyndon State College.”
(Dillon) Now, let’s pause for a moment for a lesson in a science lab.
Professor Luce has sandy hair and round glasses. He speaks in the measured, analytical tones of a physics professor, which is what he is. In his lab, Luce tinkers with a shiny chrome device. It’s a heat pump, kind of a reverse refrigerator.
(Luce) “Well, we try to teach about the principals of clean energy technology so people really understand them. And this geothermal heat pump unit is one we’re evaluating.”
(Dillon) Because he advocates for renewable energy, Luce has high hopes for devices like this. It can convert the cold temperatures from the ground into heat that can be used to warm buildings. But despite his environmentalist credentials, Luce is skeptical about wind in Vermont. He encouraged it in New Mexico when he worked there. But he says there’s just not enough wind potential here to make much of a difference in global climate change.
(Luce) “On the scale of U.S. energy usage, it’s quite small. If you were to develop all the so-called developable wind resources in the eastern United States they would only be able to reduce U.S. CO2 emissions by about 1 percent.”
(Dillon) Notice he said if you were to develop all the wind resources. That means turbines on many, many ridgelines and extensive offshore wind projects. Even if you did all that, says Luce, you wouldn’t make much of a dent in climate change.
(Luce) “It really is a minor resource. At the same time developing it in my opinion would have an incredibly adverse effect on the ecology and the economy and the character of the state.”
(Dillon) Yet Green Mountain Power says the 21 turbines the company hopes to build on Lowell Mountain will cut greenhouse gases. Robert Dostis is a company vice president.
(Dostis) “Every kilowatt of electricity that’s produced from Lowell is power we don’t have to buy from some other resource. And if that other resource is a fossil fuel, then that’s carbon we’re not putting into the atmosphere.”
(Dillon) But how much less on carbon? GMP says it’s difficult to say because different fuels create different emissions.
(Dostis) “The bottom line is, any development of this size obviously is going to have impacts, and it’s about the trade-offs.”
(Dillon) Even if environmental concerns weren’t part of the wind equation, there’s another piece of the energy system that critics say has to be considered.
It’s the question of “spinning reserve.” Here’s what that is: A spare power source, ready to kick in whenever it’s needed. Think of spinning reserve like this. When you’re sitting in your car waiting at a stop light, you want to be able to go as soon as the light turns green. It’ll take longer to get rolling if you have to restart the engine after every stop.
The electricity system is much more vast than a single car, though. So it also needs another reserve, one that could be powered up within 10 minutes.
New England needs 1,200 megawatts of both kinds of reserve electricity on hand. It usually comes from baseload hydro, nuclear or fossil fuel. Experts say if wind were a more significant part of the mix, there would be an even greater need for reserve because wind is intermittent.
Despite wind’s limitations, environmental groups argue that Vermont has to do something to move away from nuclear and fossil fuels. James Moore of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group says five or six wind projects would make a significant impact.
(Moore) “We’re talking about 8 percent of the state’s annual electricity demand already being met by local resources just in the next couple of years.”
(Dillon) But Physics professor Ben Luce has a different idea: solar. He says it’s getting cheaper and produces electricity when it’s most needed.
Luce says he wants the debate to be driven by science not hope.
(Luce) “So when people say we have to do something, my response to that is to say we really need to do something serious, not something that is just effectively symbolic.”
(Dillon) Most of Vermont’s greenhouse gases come from vehicles and heating fuels. Luce says that’s where the state could focus.
For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.
(Host) Tomorrow our series concludes with a look at how wind projects are financed.