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96-Megawatt Wind Project Could Bring $1 Million To Grafton, Windham

Howard Weiss-Tisman
More than 100 people came out to a meeting Monday to listen to details of a proposed commercial wind project for Grafton. Iberdrola Renewables wants to put eight turbines there, and 20 in neighboring Windham.

A representative from Iberdrola Renewables says the company is considering the development of 28 commercial wind turbines on property in the towns of Windham and Grafton.

At a meeting in Grafton Monday, project manager Jenny Briot said Iberdrola would pay about $1 million in property taxes to the two Windham County towns if the company moves ahead with the proposed 96-megawatt commercial wind project.

Iberdrola and the landowner have been holding meetings in Grafton and Windham for more than three years, and the information released at the meeting provided the most details about the project since discussions started.

The proposed development would be Vermont's largest wind project if it proceeds as suggested.

Briot says the estimated payments to the towns are based on what other wind project developers in the state are paying.

"We took a look at the operating projects in Vermont, and what they're paying in municipal taxes, and we arrived at a number that we thought was consistent with that," Briot said. "So in the case of Grafton, with the eight turbines at 27.6 megawatts, that wouldn't change based on production. We'd be paying based on 27.6 megawatts."

According to the preliminary plans, Windham would have 20 of the turbines and receive about $715,000 annually, while eight turbines would be located in Grafton, with that town getting about $285,000 in property taxes each year.

Briot says both tax payments are starting points for negotiations.

The state would receive $700,000 annually into the education fund, based on the energy produced, and both towns could also receive supplemental annual payments in addition to the proposed taxes.

"We are now at a point where we can all learn, evaluate and discuss something real." - Jeremy Turner, MTL managing forester

Iberdrola is continuing its environmental and wind studies and Briot says the company will have a detailed proposal for both towns in time for a vote in November 2016.

The turbines would be erected in the Stiles Brook Forest, a 5,000-acre tract of land owned by Meadowsend Timberlands.

The 28 turbines would be located within an approximately 700-acre corridor within the larger forest.

Managing Forester Jeremy Turner told a crowd of more than 100 people at the meeting that after studying the site developers were moving into the next phase of the project.

Credit Courtesy Iberdrola Renewables
Iberdrola would pay about $1 million in property taxes to the two Windham County towns if the company moves ahead with the proposed 96-megawatt commercial wind project. In the above map Route 121 is the pink line at the top while the town of Grafton is to the right.

"MTL is excited for tonight's update as it brings us to a point in the process where we as landowners and you as the community can begin to learn the real potential details for Stiles Brook Forest," Turner told the crowd at Grafton Elementary School. "In other words, we are now at a point where we can all learn, evaluate and discuss something real."

Developers answered questions for about an hour on issues includinglighting, pending lawsuits against Iberdrola, environmental and visual impacts and the effects on human health.

Iberdrola Spokesman Paul Copleman said the company wants to convince both towns that the project is needed.

"It's important for us to win a successful vote here in Grafton and Windham for us to be able to move forward," Copleman said. "That's been the precedent here in Vermont, and that's what we will do here, is honor the vote."

Earlier this year Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell indicated that GMP would be pulling back on its commitment to supporting commercial wind.

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
Grafton resident Sam Battaglino makes a point during a meeting about a proposed commercial wind project.

But Copleman said there was support in Vermont for more wind power.

"We don't know, looking at our timeline, what the market will look like four years from now," he said. "There are a lot of variables here, but we think, broadly, there is an interest in renewable energy in Vermont, and this project, if we truly have a project here that works, could help meet that demand."

If the project receives positive votes and all of the necessary permits, construction could start in 2019.

This story has been updated to include expanded reporting.

Correction 9:00 a.m. Oct. 28 : The original version of this story said that Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman said that voters in Swanton had turned down a wind project there. In fact, that vote is scheduled for Nov. 17. 

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state.
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