By Lindsay Miller
From the Publisher: The G.E.T. team is happy to introduce Lindsay Miller as one of our newest advertising sales representatives. Lindsay comes to G.E.T. with a strong communications and sales background. Lindsay received her Bachelor’s degree in communications with a focus on journalism from Castleton College. Lindsay resides in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont (Caledonia and Essex Counties) and shares her opinion on windmills below.
A lot has changed since I stated my opinion on the East Haven Wind Farm in 2003 (http://bit.ly/2osKpMK). According to VTdigger.org in 2012, 14 projects have been proposed that included 400 foot tall wind turbines that would generate electricity varying from 100 kilowatts to 100 megawatts; some have continued to be fully functioning wind farms and others ended up as someone’s idea and a large controversy. East Haven eventually met defeat in 2006 because of the impact it would have on the bird and bat population. In 2009, the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority purchased a lease of the East Haven site to process a new proposal for a three tower farm. I wasn’t able to find any other information about whether this has been done yet.
Successes in this controversy are Sheffield Wind, in Sheffield, VT. In 2011, Sheffield welcomed the largest operating wind farm in VT at the time, with sixteen 420 foot tall turbines, producing approximately 40 megawatts of electricity. Sheffield is most likely the most successful project with minimal adverse impact on the environment and neighbors. The Lowell Wind Farm, also called Kingdom Community Wind, opened in 2013 but not without a fight. Kingdom Community Wind consists of 21 turbines producing 63 megawatts of power. Proposals in Vermont that didn’t make the cut or are still in the works include projects in Newark, Grandpa’s Knob (West Rutland), Poultney, Ira, Manchester, Sunderland, Derby Line, Waitsfield and Londonderry. All the projects have run into resistance in one form or another.
I talked about the worry about the wind farm being an “eyesore” and how it would impact the Northeast Kingdom’s tourism industry being completely false. Further research did not change my opinion. BiGGAR Economics analyzed the impact of Scottish windfarms on tourism related employment in the area, and they found no evidence to suggest wind farms had an adverse effect. They compared the level of wind farm installations and the level of employment in the tourism sector between 2009 and 2013 at both a national and local level. The national number of turbines increased 121% and tourism related employment rose by 10.8%. They did find that sometimes the distribution of wind farms and tourism jobs varied, so to alleviate this problem they focused on areas with a higher proportion of wind turbines. The results of this study mimicked the results of other studies done in the past, and some results hint that the wind turbine itself has become an attraction.
Another exciting project is Burke Mountain’s installation of its very own wind turbine at the summit of the mountain to help provide skiers and riders that authentic Vermont experience and provide sustainability to Burke Mountain’s long term picture. The turbine is only the fourth functioning wind turbine installed at a ski area in the United States.
In regard to the closed Vermont Yankee, operation ended in 2015 and is planned to be completely decommissioned by 2020. Since the closing, Vermont has relied on natural gas to fill in the gaps in energy demand. The Instituteofenergyresearch.org mentions in a study that in 2015 natural gas supplied 48.6% of New England’s energy needs, when in 2014 it only supplied 43.1%. Coal decreased from 4.6% to 3.6%, and wind and solar went from 2.1% to 2.4%.
Over the past 14 years my opinion has not changed. I cannot fathom why anyone could be against wind turbines or any other form of renewable energy. I don’t feel that they take away from any of the aesthetic value of Vermont’s ridgelines, and I feel that if we continue using fossil fuels we will damage more of Vermont‘s pristine environment than by adding wind farms. Tourism doesn’t seem to be affected by the wind farms that have successfully opened. Vermont has survived without Vermont Yankee, even though I wish they had resorted to renewable energy instead of natural gas.