Construction has started on a 10-megawatt wind energy development in northwestern Vermont.
The Georgia Mountain project will feature four wind towers over 400 feet high.
The development was launched by a local family. But recently it attracted a major new investor. Vermont renewable energy entrepreneur David Blittersdorf is now a member-owner of Georgia Mountain Community Wind LLC.
Some neighbors opposed to the wind development say the owners or state regulators should have told them that construction was about to start.
R.J. Potter of Milton lives near Georgia Mountain. He says neighbors were shocked last week by the clearcutting and construction activity.
"We didn’t know that there was new ownership," he says. "The Public Service Board didn’t notify us about anything whatsoever. Usually up to this point they’ve been pretty good about it. But nothing. And you’ve got a whole bunch of upset neighbors. This Blittersdorf, could he send us a postcard or something?"
Blittersdorf is CEO of All Earth Renewables, which sells wind and solar systems. He’s also a founder of NRG Systems, a leading producer of wind measuring equipment.
Blittersdorf was out of town and unavailable for an interview. Martha Staskus is overseeing the project. She says the energy entrepreneur became interested in the Georgia wind development after it won approval from the Public Service Board.
"And we started to look at purchasing turbines and lining up and preparing for construction, David Blittersdorf became interested in being a participating member of the Georgia Mountain LLC," she says.
Staskus says the company wasn’t required to send out a notice to neighbors that construction was about to begin. Although the project won PSB approval in 2010, she says the final transportation permits were obtained just recently.
"We’ve tried to stay in communication with the neighbors as well as we can," she says. "So the conditions of the permits were met…. The board has made no indication of a violation and therefore the project needs to move forward."
Melodie McLane of Fairfax lives with her family about 3,000 feet away from the wind project. She says the company and the Public Service Board should have done a better job communicating with neighbors.
"We had not heard from the board that they had full approval to start construction. So of course we were quite upset," McLane says. "And right up until that point on everything, every piece of correspondence, every condition that had to be met, we were copied and notified.
McLane says there are about 100 homes within a mile of the project. She says there’s simply too big an impact on the mountain and the neighborhood. But Staskus of Georgia Wind says the turbines will deliver local energy and local jobs.
"That’s sort of the real exciting part about of this project. It’s locally owned; the power is going locally to Burlington Electric," Staskus says. "And it’s locally financed and it’s creating local Vermont jobs in the renewable energy sector."
Staskus says the project needs to be up and operating by the end of the year in order to qualify for federal grants.