Wind power gains momentum in Vermont

Erin LaVoie

CLF applauds the balance regulators struck in approving the Kingdom Community Wind Project in Lowell, VT. The order allows the controversial project to move forward while protecting wildlife habitat and ensuring restoration of disturbed areas.  The decision addresses all the concerns that were raised and provides some innovative means to manage the impacts.

All power supplies – including wind – have environmental impacts.   While the environmental harms associated with wind are less than most sources of generation, they need to be minimized and mitigated, not ignored. The Vermont order includes specific requirements from an agreement with Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources that permanently protects significant habitat and requires re-vegetation and restoration of disturbed areas both after construction and when the project is no longer used.  These measures go a long way to reduce the environmental footprint of the project.  The decision also calls for minimizing lighting while still conforming to FAA requirements.  Overall, the decision can be a model for how projects can move forward while responsibly addressing impacts. 

The project’s benefits are significant and weighed in favor of approval.  Powering 20,000 homes from this project will help Vermont meet it renewable energy goals, create jobs and tax revenue, avoid greenhouse gas emissions, and provide long-term, stably priced power. In an interview with VPR, GMP’s President Mary Powell described the project as, “incredibly cost effective for premium renewable electricity.”

The project, consisting of 20-21 400-foot turbines along 3 miles of Lowell Mountain ridgeline, is expected to break ground in August of this year. The turbines will power an estimated 20,000 households, making it the largest wind site in the state. The project is moving forward with the approval of the Lowell community, who voted in favor of the turbines during Town Meeting Day in 2010.  CLF is excited to support wind projects that bring the community to the table, are responsibly cited, and mitigate the impacts on the environment in exchange for clean, locally produced energy.

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