Vermont Could See First Wind Power Project in National Forest
READSBORO, Vt. The evergreen trees of the Green Mountain National Forest in southern Vermont could soon be dwarfed by 370-foot-tall wind turbines.
A company wants to build up to 30 of the turbines in the forest in what would be the first-ever wind power project on U.S. Forest Service land. The project would produce enough electricity to power 14,000 to 16,000 homes.
The Forest Service is expected to take up to 18 months to decide whether to approve the project by Deerfield Wind LLC.
Environmental groups have strongly opposed moves to open more federal lands to people who want to extract energy from them, whether oil, natural gas or coal. But wind energy, a relatively benign and pollution-free way to make electricity, is a different story.
"We're not against wind power. We think that renewable energy is a promising and useful thing," said Richard Andrews of the group Green Mountain Forest Watch. But he said his group has yet to take a position on the proposal.
There are other concerns, including whether the project will disrupt the habitat of black bears or migratory birds in the forest.
"The Forest Service doesn't have well developed protocols on wind power development," said Gina Owens, district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service
But she added that it is borrowing guidance from the Bureau of Land Management, which last month released a set of policies governing wind power development on its vast land holdings in the West.
In general, the BLM policy says wind power development is to be encouraged, and calls for changes designed to do so on parcels in nine western states.
John Zimmerman said he thinks the site of his company's proposed project is close to ideal. The National Forest ridges where Deerfield Wind LLC wants to build its wind towers are like bookends to a privately owned tract where nearly a decade ago a Vermont power company built the first utility-scale wind project east of the Mississippi.
Green Mountain Power Corp.'s 11 towers -- a bit more than half as tall as the ones proposed -- have been well received by area residents, Zimmerman said.
On a hot, calm afternoon last week, there was just enough wind -- the threshold is 10 mph -- to get the Green Mountain Power site's 2-ton, 64-foot-long, fiberglass blades, painted black to shed ice in winter, turning enough to make electricity.
School and other groups are frequent visitors to the site, including those concerned about proposals for wind power projects in their areas.
"It's amazing to see people come in and say, `Ah, that's not so bad,'" said Martha Staskus, Zimmerman's co-worker at Vermont Environmental Research Associates, with which Deerfield Wind is affiliated.
Source: Associated Press