Opponents Aim To Halt Newark Wind Project

06/14/12 7:34AM By John Dillon
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Opponents of what would be Vermont's largest ridgeline wind development are trying to stop the project while it's still in the planning stage.

The early skirmishes involve wind testing equipment planned for the northern Caledonia County town of Newark.

Before Eolian Renewable Energy applies to put up 35 to 40 turbines in the Northeast Kingdom, it first has to test the wind, literally and figuratively.

The literal part involves erecting 200 foot wind measuring towers. They're called MET towers and one is planned for Hawk Rock in Newark.

The town planning commission wants state regulators to say no to the testing equipment. Mark Whitworth is a member of the commission.

"This is an environmentally sensitive area and the construction of MET towers is not in conformance with the Newark town plan," he says.

Whitworth says the Public Service Board should reject the company's application for the test tower in part because it could harm rare peregrine falcons.

"The tower will have guy wires on it which we believe will be dangerous to the nesting peregrine falcons nearby," he says.

The planning commission filed documentation from a falcon expert, who said the fast-flying birds could collide with the guys wires as they hunt or chase intruders away from their nests.

Whitworth says the goal is to stop the wind project now, before it advances to a more detailed application before the PSB.

"It's inappropriate; inappropriate with regard to the Newark town plan," Whitworth says. "And we don't feel that the full project is a good thing for the Northeast Kingdom.

Representatives from Eolian have been in the Kingdom a lot lately, holding information sessions and trying to convince residents that their project is good for the region.

Eolian officials said they were reviewing Newark's filing with the PSB, and did not want to comment until they had a chance to fully study it.

But back in April, Eolian CEO Jack Kenworthy told Newark residents that the company could walk away if the town voted against the wind proposal.

"Clearly if there was a unified voice in the town of Newark that unequivocally told us they did not want to have wind here I think we would obviously very seriously consider not doing anything in this town," Kenworthy said at the time..

The state Department of Public Service, which represents consumers, now wants Eolian to put that in writing. Department lawyer John Beling told the PSB the company should state definitively if it will abandon the project if the communities reject it.   

"I think it's helpful for everyone in the community to understand one way or the other," he says. "In the Lowell, in the Kingdom Community Wind case, Green Mountain Power stated that affirmatively from the beginning."

GMP is now constructing a 21 turbine project in Lowell. The utility won a town-wide vote in favor of the project two years ago.

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