Wind developers not discouraged by East Haven ruling

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(Host) Wind energy developers say they’re not discouraged by a recent ruling that went against a proposed wind project in East Haven.

Backers of wind energy say the Public Service Board decision is actually encouraging, because it indicates what companies should do to get their projects approved.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dilllon) The Public Service Board said the East Haven wind developers should not get a permit because they failed to study how the turbines would affect migrating birds and bats.

But the board also rejected a hearing officer’s finding on aesthetics. The board found that that the project would not harm the scenic beauty of the remote region.

(Perchlik) “The other developers do see it in a positive light.”

(Dillon) Andrew Perchlik is with Renewable Energy Vermont. He says the favorable finding on aesthetics is good news for wind developers.

(Perchlik) “They see this as a green light for future wind farms in Vermont. They see this as opening more doors than it closes for the other projects, because of the overturning on the aesthetic issues that the board made.”

(Dillon) Matthew Kearns is director of project development for the Northeast for UPC Wind. The company has proposed a 26 turbine project in the Northeast Kingdom towns of Sheffield and Sutton.

Kearns says the board decision on the East Haven project makes it clear what developers have to do to get their projects approved. He says his company has worked with the state and gathered two years of data on bird and bat populations.

(Kearns) “It’s always tough to watch a colleague suffer in terms of going through a process and not being successful. I think it’s important that we recognize the contributions that project has made to Vermont’s public on wind power. At the same time, I think it does clarify the path forward for us.”

(Dillon) But there are still major obstacles to wind development in the state. One developer, Catamount Energy, has dropped plans for a southern Vermont project in the face of strong local opposition. And Governor Jim Douglas remains skeptical about large-scale wind projects.

(Douglas) “I think the aesthetic concerns are extremely important, that we don’t want to industrialize our ridgelines or lakes shores or any other part of Vermont. We want to find Vermont-scale wind opportunities, along with other alternative and renewable sources.”

(Dillon) Wind developers remain concerned about the governor’s opposition. And Scudder Parker, Douglas’s Democratic opponent, says the governor is being shortsighted in opposing the larger wind projects.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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