Wind Commission Releases Report
November 16, 2004
The Commission on Wind Energy Regulatory Policy (Commission) has released its draft recommendations regarding the regulatory process for large-scale wind power installations. Siting of wind turbines has become a hot issue as Vermonters debate the merits of ridgeline development versus the dire need for renewable sources of energy. In general, VNRC supports the recommendations.
The current process for reviewing wind farms falls under section 248 of Title 30—otherwise known simply as “Section 248.” In general, the Commission found that, “The Section 248 criteria are comprehensive and the Section 248 process is flexible enough to accommodate any unique characteristics associated with proposed wind projects or related evaluation measures.”
Some have suggested that wind projects should also be reviewed under Act 250, Vermont’s land use law for larger projects. Interestingly, relevant Act 250 criteria are identical to those reviewed under Section 248. As a result, the Commission recognized the potential for duplication and inefficiency, and has suggested that modest modification of Section 248 could address issues that arise from the development of large-scale wind projects. Suggestions include:
- Providing advanced notice to communities and stakeholders in order to “frontload” the process and allow for improved citizen involvement;
- Enhancing the role of municipal and regional planning commissions;
- Appointing an ombudsperson to serve as a point of contact for concerned parties in the Section 248 review process;
- Distributing impact fees to municipalities within a 10 mile radius of a project.
If, as suggested, the municipal and regional planning commissions are going to take on a more significant role in the Section 248 process, then Vermont needs to invest in those entities. Unfortunately, the legislature has perennially fallen short of its commitment to provide planning commissions with adequate resources. The Commission should also make recommendations for an appropriate funding package to support the enhanced role of municipal and regional planning commissions.
Vermonters should not assume that the Commission’s work is a cure-all. While the Commission has addressed the question of whether or not the current regulatory approval process is sufficient for large-scale commercial wind farms, VNRC believes that the Commission’s work only treats a symptom, not the underlying problem.
Vermont has not yet scratched the surface on planning for future energy needs, analyzing the realistic potential of renewable energy resources, or convening a broader conversation on energy planning. Individual projects, which are reviewed on a piecemeal basis, end up filling the vacuum left by inadequate leadership and negligible planning. In addition, we have not invested in the full potential of energy efficiency and conservation that could significantly mitigate for the increased energy demand that has helped to catalyze interest in new projects, renewable or otherwise.
On the heels of the Commission’s work, VNRC will encourage the legislature to build on the Section 248 recommendations by filling the leadership and planning vacuum left by the Douglas Administration.
The Draft Recommendations can be viewed by clicking on the link below.