Moot: Responsibly-sited wind projects?

by Candace Moot

Renewable Energy Vermont (REV) is promoting more wind energy to be built in Vermont. They are calling for “responsibly-sited wind projects.” What does that mean?

When residents of Morgan learned that industrial wind developer David Blittersdorf bought land on a ridgeline overlooking Seymour Lake, some of us wanted to learn more about what happened in other areas of the state where wind projects were built.

The obvious place we looked first was David Blittersdorf’s Georgia Mountain industrial wind project, which has four 2.5 MW Goldwind (made in China) wind turbines. We learned that during construction, Blittersdorf’s contractors threw flyrock onto neighboring property, neighbors he sued to keep them off their own land during construction. An investigation found that “in some instances it [the flyrock] appeared large enough to “possibly cause severe injury.” Blasting on a state holiday in violation of the Certificate of Public Good and the dangerous flyrock, which Blittersdorf’s project manager denied to the press happened, resulted in the Public Service Board accepting a settlement agreement with the neighbors, plus a $10,000 fine.

That was just the beginning of the fines. Neighbors complained numerous times about unbearable noise that kept them from sleeping, caused headaches and disrupted their lives. The noise was especially bad when the blades had ice on them. Three times, the Public Service Board fined Blittersdorf for running the wind turbines under icing conditions: $2500 for a March 11, 2016 violation; $5000 for a March 14, 2016 violation; and $10,000 for a January 3, 2017 violation.

Due to his irresponsible operation of the Georgia Mountain industrial wind turbines, David Blittersdorf earned the project a new winter operating protocol. Then, five years after it began producing power, he sold it to new owners, an investment business called Greenbacker Capital.

The new owners have operated the Georgia Mountain wind turbines in compliance with the much more restrictive winter operating protocol. They worked with the neighbors to update it to make it less restrictive, and have treated the neighbors more respectfully. Instead of calling them “crazy,” as Blittersdorf did when they complained about the unbearable noise, the current owners are interested in what the neighbors are experiencing.

This doesn’t mean the noise isn’t a problem, or that the shadow flicker is not incredibly annoying.

It also doesn’t mean that the money is staying in Vermont, which is one of the claims the renewable energy industry makes when they point out how much money leaves Vermont for fossil fuel energy. Investment bankers turn out to be a major beneficiary of big wind and solar built in Vermont.

Turning elsewhere, maybe other wind projects in Vermont are “responsibly-sited.” We now know that Sheffield Wind and Lowell Wind were built in an area that doesn’t have the grid to support it, so they are regularly curtailed. Tens of millions of dollars are being spent to free up that electricity. Doesn’t sound like responsible siting, does it?

The story of the Therrien family living near the Sheffield industrial wind project is painful to recount. A couple with two small children got increasingly sick, couldn’t sleep, experienced nausea that comes from infrasound produced by the wind turbines. It got so bad they had to abandon their home.

On the other side of the mountain were the Brouhas, who sued Sheffield Wind. Who is Sheffield Wind? It was UPC Wind, then First Wind, then SunEdison spun it off to a yieldco, and the current owner is Brookfield – yes, another out state investment bank, with over $725 billion in assets under management globally. In its settlement agreement, Brookfield agreed to changes in project operations and expressed “sincere regret” — the only time any wind developer has acknowledged causing harm to people in Vermont.

Green Mountain Power’s Lowell Wind project is another sad story about destruction of an intact ecosystem that is filling up with invasive species requiring the use of many gallons of herbicides. Canadian Energir-owned GMP sued its neighbor, the Nelsons, to keep them off their own land and eventually purchased the property from the Nelsons. Their settlement agreement included a gag order so the Nelsons can’t talk about their experiences. Shirley Nelson kept a diary.[1] Read what it is like to live next to 3 MW wind turbines.

Spanish Iberdrola’s Deerfield Wind fragmented the finest bear habitat in Vermont. Visitors to the George D. Aiken Wilderness area can now experience “the hands of man” from numerous areas in the wilderness where the spinning turbine blades are visible.

The key word is “responsible.” No wind developer or owner has taken any responsibility for the damage caused. Instead, they deny there are any problems. If what we have seen in Vermont is REV’s definition of “responsibly-sited wind projects,” we do not need any more of that. No thank you.

Categories: Commentary

7 replies »

  1. Responsible-sited means, sited on scenic ridgelines where beautiful views can be destroyed, and the pollutants and cacogenics will be fed directly into our headwaters.

  2. Very solid account. Thanks for this article!.

    So, how about the Vermont solar “industry”, As the saying goes, “You can fool some of the people some of the time.” Let’s have a look.

    It has been reported that Vermont’s solar path was paved during Governor Shumlin’s reign, with legislative and regulatory work that was heavily influenced by lobbyists from VPIRG. Some of the main players involved apparently went on to become our “solar pioneers” (translation: wealthy solar executives, owners).

    Funding for both residential and commercial solar was and continues to be, bulked up a lot with a big helping of VT and Federal Pork – subsidies, grants, etc..Translation: taxpayer money.

    Vermont solar companies say that the “panels” and batteries used in their work are procured mainly from a American manufacturing companies. Where do the raw materials and also some components for these come from? Reports are that China is a main source (check your research about the labor used for this).

    And so today ten to twelve years later, many thousands of (former) fields and meadows across Vermont are paved with large tracts of panels made of glass, metal, toxic metals and minerals, etc. And thousands of rooftops are adorned. Hey…..It’s free money! (A thought….what about “equity”? Are lower and lower middle income Vermonters accessing the rooftop solar “incentives” just the same as their upper middle brethren?)

    Personal fulfillment and planetary wellness appear to the sales pitches. Web sites tout a devotion to saving the planet, to saving people money. Families stand in front of newly solar adorned homes, beaming with pride. Solar consultants manifest earnest visages whilst concentrating on making sure that work estimates are precise and that installations are affixed carefully to rooftops or placed in fields.

    Let’s ask: How many total acres have been removed from use for farming, from serving as habitat for nesting migratory birds and home for Vermont wildlife, from our overall ecosystem? What is the effect on air temperatures, wildlife and birds, plants, etc. etc.? Anyone researching this? And, consider….how many green or snowy vistas are now blighted with what look like skyscrapers tipped over sideways? How is the so-called “rural character” and landscape of Vermont being altered by the swaths of glass?

    Final concern….just as with roofs, boilers, motor vehicles etc…..the panels will wear down and lose effectiveness. What is the time frame? 20 or 30 years? What will the cost be of replacement, keeping the “solar farms” going? What is the plan for disposing of the thousands of tons of materials….silicon-laden glass, batteries loaded with toxic metals, etc.? And the cost of that, and who will pay the cost? Just asking? Anyone working on this?

    I know, I know….”clean energy”…..”helping the planet”……”creating hundred of good-paying jobs”…on and on and on? But please consider…..what about the Chinese mine worker? Doing okay and personally fulfilled? What about the migratory birds? They find other fields and meadows for nesting and feeding? Are they well? What about the former (and non-future) farmers? Are they and their families happy with all of the glass? What about the places out in the hinterlands yet to be identified where the tons of solar refuse will be placed? In Vermont? Certainly not in Shelburne or greater Montpelier or Norwich. What about the people who live, or may someday want to live, in rural places and landscapes? What is the effect on the quality of their lives, in that just down the road or right next door, there is a former several acre hay meadow or cornfield completely covered with metal, wires and glass?

    Yep. It’s all so amazing. Planet-saving. So 2020s Vermont. And so very sad.

  3. I doubt turbines for industrial scale wind energy can ever be “responsible”. That is just another buzz word to justify a very costly ( in terms of energy used for construction, materials used for construction, which include rare earth metals etc. none of these things are without negative environmental and human impacts ) energy project. The use of these alternatives is mere green washing. No one even discusses what to do with the parts of these systems ( blades, electronics etc. ) when they wear out and need to be replaced. That always needs to be calculated in the costs to society and humanity.
    That we are facing finite energy resources is obvious. We already picked the low hanging low cost to retrieve fruit for most fossil fuel resources. Cheap energy for far too long means we squandered it and means the producers were not able to to reinvest to keep that going. Remember all that also subsidized all the so called “green” energy projects. Energy is a complex subject and there are no easy answers but serious conservation will need to be part of any plan to address energy.

  4. Another eye-soar on Crystal Lake in Barton. A beautiful ridgeline over a pristine Vermont lake destroyed and 7 monoliths placed to ruin the natural beauty of the setting. It’s obvious that to these people their God is money. What took millions of years for mother earth to make was destroyed by diesel equipment, tons of cement, steel and rare foreign materials all mined and shipped across the ocean and trucked with fossils fuel vehicles thousands of miles. Never mind the human tragedy of child slave labor dying of cobalt dust and lithium being mined with diesel equipment and whatever else it takes to manufacture these monoliths as the insane climate cult tells us they are carbon neutral and renewable energy. They also never mention the environmental disaster of dealing with them after they are no longer viable. This is such a scam and people with limited brain power buy into it all. It makes me sick that people are this ignorant.

  5. and who gets to figure out how to deal with the debris? well that would be our grandchildren…remember it took us all a long time to figure out those flashlight batteries shouldn’t go in the trash or those florescent light bulbs …i could go on…….how about figuring it out before we go plopping these monstrosities’ all over our mts, and fields…….fields full of solar are the most unappealing vista I have ever seen…….going green over the next 100 or more years and how to deal with and what are the consequences of the refuse BEFORE taking action. Same with EV’s…….this all is the proverbial “cart before the horse”……..

  6. Hard to believe we are looking at this again after all we went through several years ago while Lowell Ridge was being dynamited and Grafton was being threatened. Anyone interested in renewable energy should realize that wind is absolutely the worst tool for Vermont. Installation destroys pristine wildlife habitat and tears apart our best carbon sinks. In exchange we get intermittent power without the necessary infrastructure to get it from production site to the consumer. Feels like deja vu all over again.