(Host) A wind summit’ in Manchester this weekend capped off efforts to promote a reasoned approach to a controversial wind proposal.
About 100 people showed up Saturday to question the experts and register their own responses using the latest instant polling technology.
VPR’s Susan Keese reports:
(Keese) The summit brought together experts on every aspect of Endless Energy’s proposal. The Maine-based company wants to build five 390-foot turbines on Little Equinox Mountain.
A state wildlife official talked about potential threats to protected bats. A representative from the state Department of Public Service answered questions about Act 248. That’s the approval process for new electrical facilities.
A scientist addresses concerns about noise, with help from a professional facilitator:
(Facilitator) “I think what I heard is that at Hildene or at the pond it’s not likely that you would hear it.”
(Expert) “But the wind might carry the sound back down.”
(Moderator) “So with the wind you might actually…” (Expert) “That’s right, downwind. Upwind I don’t think is a problem.”
(Keese) Projected images using Visualization software showed how the turbines might appear from different parts of town.
The summit culminated months of informational meetings aimed at promoting productive dialogue on this potentially divisive issue. Town officials hired the Manchester-based Orton Family Foundation to help orchestrate the process.
The foundation uses advanced technologies to help communities tackle difficult issues.
At this event, everyone got to vote on a range of questions using hand-held numerical keypads. The wireless devices were linked to polling software that tallied results and projected them immediately for everyone to see.
The polling showed that more people oppose the wind farm than support it. But many people are still deciding.
Citizens were also asked to prioritize their concerns.
(Moderator) “All right, so we’ve got visual impact clearly at the top. We’ve got direct energy and financial benefits flow outside of Manchester as a key one, lack of state policy and lack of local voice on 248, impact on property values and then a range of other issues. So there’s kind of four that emerge as the top issues.”
(Keese) Manchester town planner Lee Krohn says keypad polling allows for more nuanced and broader based feedback than a normal vote.
(Krohn) “Again not just to gauge people’s feelings on yes or no, but a sort of range of thoughts or beliefs — for example, I don’t support it, I might support it if the following conditions were in place or if there were a better deal for the town.'”
(Keese) Project Developer Harley Lee used the summit to offer a $30,000-a year-benefit to the town in lieu of actual power.
The electricity from the wind farm is already under contract to the Burlington electric Company if the project is approved by the Public Service Board.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.