Op-eds: 2 views on the Windham-Grafton industrial wind plan

On Thursday, Aug. 11, The Chester Telegraph received a request from KSE Partners, a Montpelier and Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm, to run an op-ed by Art Sasse, the communications director for Iberdrola Renewables, the Spanish wind turbine company that is seeking to build Vermont’s largest wind project in Windham and Grafton.

Instead of letting the op-ed sit in a vacuum, we decided to reach out to the Grafton Woodlands Group, which has been working to stop the project, to write an op-ed of its own. We did not provide either party with any information about what the other had written. We just requested that they be of similar length. — Cynthia Prairie, editor

Separate fact from fiction

By Art Sasse
Director of communications
Iberdrola Renewables

The Stiles Brook wind project is a joint effort between local landowner Meadowsend Timberlands Limited and Iberdrola Renewables. The goal of the project is to bring renewable, clean energy to the region.We have been working diligently with the communities of Windham and Grafton for more than four years to discuss the project factually. Given the misinformation and myths we are encountering, we would like to take an opportunity to provide factual information about the project proposal.

The Project

The project would include 28 turbines – 20 in Windham, eight in Grafton. Iberdrola Renewables has proposed an economic benefits package that would deliver a minimum of $1 million to the two towns annually – $285,000 to Grafton and $715,000 to Windham.

This benefit package could eliminate municipal property tax payments for Windham residents and significantly reduce them for Grafton residents. We are currently talking with residents to learn if there are additional benefits that are important to each town that could be included in a final benefits package. This final package will be presented to the towns in advance of the November vote on the project.

Water Quality

Two members of the Windham Select Board, along with the chair of the Planning Commission, recently sent a letter response to Iberdrola regarding the request to discuss a potential agreement. Unfortunately, the letter included false information. This false information has also been publicized on the local, anti-wind website.

The letter asserts that the Stiles Brook project would be at odds with crucial flood management initiatives and goes on to state that at the Kingdom Community Wind project site, “enhanced monitoring has not been carried out according to the requirements of the permit…” This is not true.

In an email response dated July 8, 2016, the deputy secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Trey Martin, addressed the false accusations, stating, “Similar inaccuracies are found on the GraftonWindhamWind.org website. Given these repeated misrepresentations, ANR felt it important to respond … KCW is in compliance with the monitoring requirements imposed by its storm water permit.”

The facts: The state has stringent requirements for maintaining a high level of water quality and dealing with the possibility of flooding and/or erosion. These requirements are much more stringent than any town ordinance or regulation.

The Stiles Brook project will include a highly technical and engineered storm water system that will help ensure that the towns of Grafton and Windham as well as surrounding communities are well protected against flooding and water contamination from the project. This is not just the right thing to do. It is the law.


The letter states that the effects of living in proximity to wind turbines are unknown. This is not true.

The facts: Hundreds of thousands of people live and work in close proximity to wind turbines without any negative effects. The peer-reviewed scientific evidence overwhelmingly finds that wind turbines do not harm human health. Further, credible peer-reviewed scientific data and various government reports refute the claim that wind farms cause negative health impacts.

There are Iberdrola employees living within a quarter mile of turbines at several projects nationwide. If any reader wants to talk to one of these folks please contact us and we would be happy to connect you.

The Vote

Voters in Grafton and Windham should be aware of the falsehoods spread by the individuals and groups that are doing everything they can to prevent an open, fact-based discussion before the vote.

It is time for the fear mongering to end. The residents of Windham and Grafton deserve better.

We will honor a fair and equitable decision of the registered voters of the towns conducted by Australian ballot. We encourage voters to get the facts before casting a ballot.

Protect each other, environment

By Anna Vesely Pilette and Carol Lind
Grafton Woodlands Group

In small towns, there is a wonderful sense of community and trust. We depend on our neighbors. We come through for each other – just think about how neighbors responded during Tropical Storm Irene. No one stopped to think about the other’s politics or whether they were a second homeowner or a permanent resident. Everyone pitched in to get the job done.

But Vermont’s small towns are being threatened by a frenzy of development activity from huge energy generation projects in the name of the environment.

One of Vermont’s largest landowners, a company that owns the Stiles Brook Forest that spans the boundary between the historic towns of Grafton and Windham, has invited one of the world’s largest foreign energy companies to build an industrial wind project there. If developed, it would become Vermont’s largest industrial wind project with more than 700 homes within 3 miles of the skyscraper-sized turbines – by far closer to more homes than any other wind project in Vermont.

We’ve done our research. We’ve learned that wind energy does not reduce carbon emissions. Those claims are false. Wind energy projects destroy natural resources. Many environmentalists have raised concerns about destruction of otherwise undisturbed areas and the deaths of birds and bats.

Furthermore, wind energy is not cost effective; it has negative economic impacts on tourism and property sales. Surrounding towns are affected with no benefit to them. It provides few, if any, permanent jobs for Vermonters. It pits neighbor against neighbor, and the permitting process is undemocratic. The trail of Vermonters suffering from negative health effects, and even abandonment of their homes, is a disgrace to the system.

Vermont’s carbon footprint of electricity consumption is puny. The top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the state are transportation, heating and agriculture.

So why are we destroying the very mountaintops and beauty that Vermont is known for all over the world?

Well, maybe it’s because there’s more big money for utilities, developers and equipment manufacturers in large-scale electricity generation and transmission projects than there is in working on our heating or transportation footprints.

Corporate interests have lobbied hard to persuade Vermonters that electricity’s 5 percent is more important than the other 95 percent of our carbon footprint. Elected officials and the state’s biggest “environmental” groups have helped whip the public into accepting that destroying our mountains by building turbines on them will reverse climate change and prevent another Tropical Storm Irene.

That’s a misleading statement. We’re not fooled. When industrial wind is proclaimed renewable — yes, it does get power from the wind — it’s a fallacy to think the process is affordable or clean.

Think about all of the materials, including rare earth elements, plus manpower, machines and transportation that it takes to harness wind. And, once wind turbines are up and running, they don’t run all of the time. The process is intermittent, and there is no way to store the power when a turbine is running but not needed. Wind power requires backup, and that backup is fossil fuels. Germany, a country that dove into renewables, has found it is using more, not fewer, fossil fuels due to the required commitment to renewables. Turbines only run at 25 to 40 percent efficiency compared to other energy sources that run at about 80 percent.

Why would we destroy the very essence of our villages and our ridgelines for energy that, in the long term, really doesn’t work?

We are asking Meadowsend Timberlands to be a good neighbor and think hard about what you are doing to protect your legacy. We know you are a respected company. We know you have conserved acres of forestland in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Instead of destroying acres of the Stiles Brook Forest here in Grafton and Windham, think about us, your neighbors, and the lasting effect this project will have on our lives, our land, our towns, our mountains, our wildlife, our visitors, our children, our health, our well-being, and our future – and for what?

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  1. Jackie Taylor Backs says:

    Thank you, Shawn, for providing fact based information in response to the content and assertions in Paul Kenny’s comment.

  2. Paul,

    We try to put up every civil comment that we receive here at The Telegraph in the interest of giving our readers access to a wide variety of opinions. In the case of this comment however, we struggled not with the tone but with the content, which was a partisan political call to action based on some assertions that we question. In the end we decided that we would publish your comment with a response.

    In our research we find that the state AOT has rules and permitting in place for these loads. According to officials at the state, there are times that temporary changes need to be made to roads to accommodate large loads. When the shipments are completed, those changes must be reversed.

    The state’s permitting process is not open to public comment, but the route is not entirely under the control of the State of Vermont. Along Main Street, from the Country Girl Diner to Lover’s Lane, is a town highway and as such the permitting of these loads is in the hands of the Town of Chester.

    As for flooding, wind development opponents have asserted that building turbines would worsen flooding along the Saxton’s River and its tributaries and this claim may have some merit. But it seems very unlikely that wind development south of Route 121 will affect flooding Chester, which is over a mountain and in a different watershed. (As an example, Londonderry, Grafton and Chester experienced damaging floods during Irene, but from three unconnected  and vastly different river systems.)

    And whether or not wind developers come to Chester to site their turbines has everything to do with the work of the Chester Planning Commission and Select Board rather than who sits in the statehouse. As always, the important thing is that people be well informed and participate. And that’s why we try to get the facts correct.

  3. Mei-Mei Ellerman says:

    As an owner since 1938 of a property on Acton Hill directly across from where the Stiles Brooks turbines are suppose to go up, I want to express in strongest terms possible, my opposition to having the beautiful ridge raped to install turbines that are a menace to migrating birds that fly right over this area.

    My house is less than a mile from the ridge intended for turbines. I have multiple health issues and am extremely sensitive to noise and vibrations. Some people don’t mind, but for those of us who are vulnerable, it represents a major issue.

    Vermont is one of the few pristine areas where forests are allowed to grow unhindered, benefiting wildlife and providing natural beauty both for residents and for tourists who travel from far and wide.

    I am deeply committed to opposing the installation of turbines on Stiles Brook Ridge.


    Dr. Mei-Mei A. Ellerman

  4. Susan D'Elia says:

    Iberdrola is pushing for a vote of ONLY permanent residents and EXCLUDING second homeowners.

    Second homeowners pay MORE taxes than permanent residents and are effected just as much as a permanent residents by this wind project.

    Second homeowners chose this area for its beauty and solitude. Many second homeowners are here almost as much as they are at their permanent residences. Second homeowners have just as much a stake here as permanent residents. Why would Iberdrola want to exclude members of the community that it claims to be helping in a vote that impacts them? What is Iberdrola afraid of?

  5. Paul Kenny says:

    Hi Ron,

    Chester will actually have a couple of dogs in this fight so you need to get out the vote in town and be sure Phil Scott is the next Governor. Watch the video at the link below. This is what will come right through the center of Chester on the way to Stiles Brook. They may need to widen the streets in Chester and with all their influence in Montpelier they will do just that if necessary. Then, the massive flooding potential from these sitings could create disastrous floods in Chester. Finally, if Sue Minter is elected governor, she is so pro wind development that any Chester ridge lines are a target for more sitings of these 500 ft tall industrial power plants that are really non stop ATM machines for the developers and Wall Street investors.

  6. Annette Smith says:

    Ron J, the Windham group is called Friends of Windham. The original Grafton group was called Friends of Grafton’s Heritage but a pro-wind Grafton resident registered the name with the Secretary of State’s office, basically stealing the group’s name so they had to come up with another. Wind energy is such a fun business! Not!!

    The question you are asking has been asked of Iberdrola/Avangrid in public meetings and not answered. However, since most of the turbines would be in Windham, if Windham says no, it would seem that the Grafton vote would be moot.

  7. Ron J says:

    As a Chester resident I don’t “have a dog in this fight”. I do have a question, though. I’ve seen a lot from the Grafton Woodlands Group about how they are opposed to this project, however I haven’t heard or read anything regarding a similar group from Windham. Does the group respresent both towns, or are the attitudes toward the project different in Grafton and Windham? The reason I ask is, what if there is a “split decision”? If Grafton votes to oppose the project and Windham votes to accept it, will Iberdrola go ahead with the 20 turbines in Windham only?

  8. RGP says:

    Remember to vote in November. Also remember Democrat Sue Minter is running for governor and pushing alternative energy, wind and solar. Sue Minter will destroy Vermont’s landscape if elected. If you don’t want this wind project you should vote Republican.

    Voting Republican will also protect our gun rights.