VNRC’s Work to Ensure Vermont Does Wind Right
The Vermont Natural Resources Council has worked for the last 50 years to protect and enhance the state’s environment and natural resources. It has become increasingly clear in recent years that one of the greatest threats to our natural resources and way of life is climate change. As Vermont wrestles with how to tackle this global issue, we also wrestle with what our state can do to take responsibility for our energy needs.
The debate over the development of wind energy in Vermont has become a divisive, largely black and white issue. That debate often lacks adequate consideration of all the issues, including the local circumstances or concerns as well as the very real global climate challenge that we face.
VNRC believes that wind energy — large and small — has a role in Vermont’s energy future. Our support for wind energy is not, however, without consideration for the context of its application. We simply believe that there is an opportunity to develop wind energy the right way in Vermont.
VNRC has worked to help shape solutions and constructive dialogue to help ensure that, if large wind energy projects are proposed in Vermont, we do so in a way that minimizes or avoids impacts to Vermont communities and residents to the best of our ability. Not all potential sites are well-suited for wind, but it’s likely that there are some locations where wind could be developed well. To that end, VNRC was among a diverse set of groups who pushed for the Shumlin Administration to put together a commission to examine ways to improve how we site large scale energy development — wind in particular — in Vermont. VNRC has been actively involved in that process to date and testified before the Energy Generation Siting Commission in December 2012.
In 2010, several environmental groups gave a joint statement on wind energy development in Vermont. VNRC then issued its own more detailed statement on wind energy development. It follows:
VNRC believes that for a variety of reasons, wind energy generation will be a permanent feature in Vermont’s landscape for many generations to come. The challenge facing Vermont is not whether wind energy should be developed, but the manner in which it will be developed. We urge the next Governor to lead on the issue of wind energy development by directing the Agency of Natural Resources and Department of Public Service, in collaboration with Regional Planning Commissions, to develop a Vermont Wind Energy Development Plan that:
- Identifies the appropriate amount of wind energy that should be developed in the state, taking into consideration the state’s anticipated energy demand and state greenhouse emissions reduction goals;
- Includes an inventory of suitable wind energy development locations, taking into consideration areas with the greatest wind potential, access to necessary infrastructure, and general development suitability;
- Identifies environmental resources that should be protected from adverse impacts of wind development, taking into consideration regional landscape-scale issues including habitat fragmentation, applicable statutory standards, and including strategies for avoiding or mitigating adverse impacts to these resources (e.g., through the designation of exclusion areas, site design, or off-site mitigation);
- Identifies cultural resources (e.g., landscapes of exceptional scenic, historic, recreational or economic value) that should be protected from adverse impacts of wind development, and possible mitigation strategies for addressing impacts (e.g., design standards, lighting standards), taking into consideration the cumulative impacts of the development of multiple sites within a region;
- Includes an objective assessment of risks to public health and appropriate measures to address those risks, to allay public perceptions and uncertainty regarding such impacts;
- Is developed with ample opportunity for public involvement. Such a plan should serve as a guidance document for the Public Service Board, administration officials, wind developers, municipal officials and Vermont citizens by providing a clear road map for future wind projects.
VNRC is committed to continuing a conversation with our members, policy makers, opinion leaders and concerned Vermonters about how the state can maintain its essential commitment to a clean energy future — and climate action — without sacrificing our natural resources, wild places and tight-knit communities. We believe Vermont has a responsibility to meet more of its own electricity needs. To that end, we believe wind energy has a powerful role to play — in Vermont and beyond — as we move away from fossil fuels and other non-renewable fuels and implement green energy solutions that will power our lives and build a thriving 21st century economy.