Starts at 6.48 on this video, ends at about 11 minutes
Stewart Ledbetter. #7 on our list of the top 10 candidates. It stayed with us all year and it will be with us in 2012 as well, the Lowell wind project construction gets underway. Controversial from the get-go. And are we entering a new era here with commercial wind? That’s really on a lot of people’s minds.
Candy Page. First I think we need to broaden this a little bit. We had not only the Lowell protests but the first true industrial scale wind project in Vermont on a mountain in Sheffield opened in the fall so now for the first time we are feeding the grid with wind generated energy in Vermont. Three projects have now been fully approved and are either under construction or are operating. Sheffield. Small project in Milton on Georgia Mountain. And Lowell. Now, it remains to be seen whether we are entering a new era. It has become clear, I think, that the Public Service Board is going to approve these projects. They’ve now approved three in a row, yes with conditions but with conditions that developers are able to meet. Lowell is the first place where we’ve seen this level — each of these projects has had opposition but Lowell is the first time where people have actually gone out and put their bodies on the line, and they’ve done it very effectively. Now everybody in Vermont knows that some of the people who live around that project are very upset, not just about the way these wind turbines look, but they’re concerned about the damage that wind energy does to the environment in these high mountain areas.
Emerson Lynn. I think you’re also going to start getting quickly to the point where once you’ve got the two projects in place then you’re going to be looking at the projects themselves and how much they can actually contribute. And I think Candy’s right, the question now, is the fix in, so you’ve got the wind projects and people just get used to it and get over it and we move to something else, or, were these guys so good in their protests that this spreads to others. And I think that’s a tough one. I think these protesters were extremely effective in getting their message across and there are an awful lot of people who wouldn’t put their last dollar on the next project getting approved.
Candy Page. You know, I think, this is an important thing. I think in the past, opponents have been a little naive. It’s usually neighbors, they’re usually not very well funded. I think they have thought they could go to the PSB and persuade the PSB to say no. Now it’s clear that that’s a very high bar to clear and I think what we’ll see especially in areas where there’s a bigger population or a more sophisticated population, you may see much earlier, much more effective efforts both through the legal system and not through the legal system but through protests.
Mark Johnson. It’s already happening. I guess I would say I would agree with your point that once these went from concept to reality and people can see them that generates discussion. But I think in the case of Lowell and Sheffield these were the early people, too, and there have been a number of communities now as a result of those two projects have written regulation into their zoning and made it so that these kind of projects can’t happen. I mean we’re talking about the NEK, a lot of these communities didn’t really even have any zoning, it was pretty much a place where you could do what you want as long as you didn’t effect your neighbor and I don’t think that they were prepared in a zoning sense but I think a lot of other communities has gotten the wake-up call from this one.
Stewart Ledbetter. You think you could build one of these on top of Mount Mansfield?
Emerson Lynn. Not ever. No.
Candy Page. But that’s been my argument, if we’re going to build these, if we need the wind power that badly, why not put them on mountains where we already have built roads as wide as the interstate instead of putting them in large blocks of undeveloped mountains.
Emerson Lynn. But this gets right back to the NIMBY factor which always prevails in these things. The closer to a large population base, the stronger the opposition.
Candy Page. Absolutely.