On Wednesday, October 26, Vermont celebrated a banner day in advancing clean, sustainable, local energy production by marking the completed construction of two wind power projects. First Wind commissioned Sheffield Wind, a 40 megawatt (MW) wind facility, which will produce enough electricity for the whole of Caledonia County. In nearby East Burke, Burke Mountain Ski Area celebrated its new wind turbine, manufactured by Barre-based Northern Power Systems. The Northwind 100 turbine at Burke is expected to produce close to 20% of the ski resort’s power needs.
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin spoke at both ribbon cutting events. He started his speech with “Get off of our addiction to oil”, and went on to say that Vermont has had a long history of leading the nation, starting with abolishing slavery and the first women’s right to vote. “Clearly Vermont is a leader.” Shumlin commended the efforts of these environmentally conscious advances which are helping the state to secure a clean energy future.
Paul Gaynor, First Wind CEO, who had introduced Gov. Shumlin, stated that they invested over $100 Million from start to finish on this project, due to the extra measures that were taken due to the opposition at every turn. He posed the question “Why did we take this risk?” We had an obligation to try to make Wind meet the highest standards in the country today. The people made it happen and today we are assured that all the power produced is sold to Vermont.
The 27 acre site is the most environmentally engineered of any Wind Farm that has been undertaken in the US. Beyond producing clean energy, the Sheffield Wind project has also undertaken several cutting-edge environmental mitigation and conservation measures that surpass even the most stringent industry standards. One of these measures is an intricate system of ditches which convey runoff to 27 basins designed to catch and filter storm water. In addition, the project also features narrower roads and smaller turbine pads than most utility-scale wind projects, measures to protect wildlife—including bear and moose habitat—and the preservation of the site for recreational uses. “Our four years of perseverance were worth it. This is an endeavor for the state and community to be proud of”. Gaynor concluded with “It takes a village to pull off a project like this.”
State Representative Tony Klein, Chair of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee and the Chair of the Joint House & Senate Energy Oversight Committee, spoke about the significance of the project “This project represents a huge step forward towards Vermont’s sustainable clean energy future, It is very gratifying to see our energy policy, ten years in the making, finally become a reality. The site is still magnificent.” He told the developers that they were “out their minds. They looked under every rock! This project will live on as support for the need for Big Oil Protection.”
Located in the Town of Sheffield in the Northeast Kingdom, the Sheffield Wind project is comprised of 16 Clipper Liberty 2.5 MW turbines, and will generate enough power for about 45% of the homes. The project will diversify the portfolio of electricity generation in Vermont, and it will be integrated into the grid in a manner that increases reliability and helps reduce costs for consumers.
Proudly, Avram Patt, General Manager of Washington Electric Cooperative said “The clean energy produced from this wind project also provides long-term cost certainty, a valuable hedge to more volatile fuels, which is a direct benefit to our residential and business members throughout Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom.”
The Town of Sheffield will receive more than $520,000 annually in tax revenues, which can be used toward local services including roads, schools, police, firefighters and more. In total, including payments and services for land, property and state taxes, and local maintenance contracts, about $1 million a year will be paid into Vermont for the life of the project.
During construction, Sheffield Wind created about 200 local jobs, and several local businesses saw an increase in business and revenue during the building of the project. Development and construction of the project required about 185,000 direct and on-site labor hours, or about 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs over a full-year. First Wind and its contractors used about 50 different Vermont businesses for site work, supplies and equipment, environmental services, fuel and maintenance and lodging.
“Vermonters are embracing a clean energy future that we are proud of,” says Gabrielle Stebbins, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Vermont (REV). “We celebrate new, clean Vermont-made energy.”
We need to steadfastly continue in this direction. With the reality of climate change approaching much faster than expected, we should actually be saying as a friend put it “Oh my goodness!
How many of them there turbine thingies can we fit up on that there mountain and how freakin’ fast can we be a-buildin’ those babies!”.