Op-eds: Closing arguments
Wind power not green vs. financial benefits to communities

From the editor: In just about a week, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, we will go to the polls to vote on a contentious and at times disturbing presidential race whose partisans have helped split the country. At the same time, voters in the towns of Windham and Grafton will vote on a proposed industrial wind project that has also torn those communities. ­ This week, we present the final op-eds from one person for the project and one person against. Letters to the editor will be accepted and published until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1. After that time, no letters on the topic will be published until after the vote. — Cynthia Prairie

Wind is not green, clean,  sustainable, renewable

By Skip Lisle
Grafton Select Board member
Wildlife biologist

Industrial wind developments — IWDs — in Vermont are often described as “green,” “clean,” “sustainable,” and “renewable.”

This falsely implies that they can eliminate enough fossil fuel use to influence the world’s climate and that they are otherwise harmless.

Most of Vermont’s faint carbon footprint is from transportation and heating. Only about 5 percent is from electricity use.

IWDs can only reduce that number by a fraction. This is partly because our wind resource is relatively poor. The grid also requires constancy. The intermittent pulses from wind have to be balanced by steady sources like carbon-emitting gas plants.

Wind energy sent out of state

Moreover, Vermont can’t count most of this wind energy toward our arbitrary self-sufficiency goals because it will be sold out-of-state as “renewable” credits.

This weak blow against carbon, combined with related environmental costs, suggests IWDs are green in name only.

This symbolic “greening” requires actual de-greening.

Modern turbines are colossal. In low-wind sites, they are even larger: Roughly 500-feet tall with a blade-sweep diameter considerably longer than a football field.

In Vermont, they are built on mountaintops. Their massive foundations are made by leveling bedrock, pouring cement and adding gravel trucked in from miles around.

Enormous roads, which traverse and fragment the forested landscape, are necessary to transport turbine components and assembly cranes to their destinations.

This infrastructure eliminates cool, sponge-like, sediment-holding, carbon-sequestering and chemical-free forest.

It becomes an open, largely un-vegetated source of local warming for the ground, air, and headwater streams. The impervious, manmade substrate increases run-off, erosion, and sedimentation rates. In border areas, plants are controlled with herbicides.

This symbolic greening requires us to develop high-altitude mountains. To list just a few of their values, they are:

  • Refugia for wildlife that shy from heavy human activities;
  • “native” sanctuaries from the exotic, ecosystem-changing plants common in valleys and along roads;
  • the places where pure, cold-water ecosystems begin;
  • sites of critical habitats like stands of bear-nourishing beech trees; and
  • great locales to hunt and hike.

Just above, where turbine blades spin, are flyways for birds, bats and insects. Once degraded, these ecosystems and animals will not be renewable.

This symbolic greening requires us to alter our world-famous viewscape. Rural beauty, or the general lack of development, is a characteristic that survives chiefly in our mountains.

Perhaps, it’s best exemplified by the undulating ridgelines and the stunning skylines they form. Cherished by Vermonters, these qualities also provide the foundation of our beauty-based economy. If lost, these values will, by definition, not be sustained.

Human sacrifice

This symbolic greening requires human sacrifice. When running, turbines broadcast audible noise and far-reaching, inaudible and health-degrading infrasound.

Vermont towns typically have widely dispersed populations. When IWDs are crammed into them, there invariably will be people living so close to turbines they will lose property value and, possibly, their health.

Naturally, these potential victims tend to fight proposed IWDs. Conversely, people living safely on the other side of town, and lobbied hard by the wind industry, are more tempted to accept this threat to their neighbors.

This dynamic creates harmful social climate change. Once damaged, these priceless commodities, lives and communities may not be renewable.

IWDs hurt our environment while doing nothing for the world’s. If we want to make a real difference — and put nobody at risk — we should drive less, insulate more and embrace domestic solar.

Even better, we could simply not develop our unspoiled mountains. This would protect Vermont’s wonderful environment of rich natural habitats, physical beauty, quaint villages, and close-knit communities.

Iberdrola offer would help economy, individuals

By Walter Meisner
Senior business manager
Iberdrola Renewables

The Stiles Brook Wind Project team recently announced our final project proposal to the towns of Windham and Grafton.

This proposal was the result of hundreds of conversations held with residents of both communities.

The final proposal includes an enhanced economic benefits package and a reduced number of turbines. The proposed Stiles Brook Wind Project would offer a substantial positive impact on the economies of Windham and Grafton, promote rural vitality, help preserve working forest that is open to the community and help fight climate change.

The enhanced economic benefits package includes a direct annual payment that will be evenly distributed to full-time adult Windham and Grafton residents.*

This payment addresses the concern that we repeatedly heard from residents that under our original proposal, which relied on property tax breaks to supply the economic benefit, those with more expensive properties would see a greater property tax reduction.

Equitable economic benefits

This final proposal more equitably distributes economic benefits from the project across both communities, including both property owners and renters, to ensure that low-income and middle-class Vermonters receive the same benefit as those with more expensive properties, while still allowing for property tax reductions.

In total, Iberdrola’s annual payments to the towns and their residents would save every Windham and Grafton resident a significant amount of money. Once built, the project would contribute a total of $1.5 million per year to the communities and residents, up from $1 million as originally proposed.

The project’s annual payments would be divided into two types of payments: Town payments, which go to town government, and community payments, which go to a separate, independently managed community fund.

The town payment would have two components: municipal property taxes owed by the project and a supplemental payment that the Select Board and voters would determine how to allocate each year as part of the town budget.

The community fund, to be administered by a third party trustee, not Iberdrola Renewables, would hold and distribute money specifically ear-marked for the permanent residents of the town, such as the annual partnership payments and other charitable contributions and scholarships.

The partnership payments would total $350,000 in Windham and $215,000 in Grafton, resulting in every full-time Windham resident receiving $1,162 and every full-time Grafton resident receiving $428 based on the current number of registered voters in each respective town.*

Fewer turbines

Our final proposal also includes four fewer turbines as we also heard a concern from some Windham residents about the potential effect of turbines sited closest to residences. In response, we have reduced the number of turbines in Windham from 20 to 16, and generally reconfigured the layout to shift several turbines further from residences. The updated project layout would thus reduce both the project’s visibility and sound levels.

With these changes, Iberdrola Renewables believes more than ever that the Stiles Brook Wind Project would have a positive impact on the towns of Windham and Grafton by providing substantial economic benefits and helping lower our dependence on energy sources already harming our economy and environment by generating clean renewable energy in Windham County.

*EDITOR’ S NOTE: When asked about the discrepancy between the original offer to just registered voters and the current contention that it would go to all full-time residents, Meisner responded by email: “The intent of the Project Partnership program has been to benefit full-time adult residents of the Towns. We have utilized the illustration of registered voters in the past, as it is a clear identification of adults who have met specific criteria to be considered full-time residents. As we have proposed however, this program will be administered by a 3rd party. We will entrust the 3rd party administrator to utilize the most efficient and transparent way to qualify individuals as full-time adult residents which may or may not be as voter registration.”

The Telegraph believes this to be an unsatisfactory answer however and will rely on this explanation from Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman, as quoted by Mike Faher in VT Digger: On Friday Copleman said “the company has clarified its financial offer to encompass ‘all permanent residents, not just registered voters.’ ”

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  1. As a resident living 1 mile from Iberdrola’s Hoosac Wind project, I can say they are the Neighbors from Hell. They offer “Good Neighbor policies” to those who complain, which are in reality contracts to silence those impacted. Few have been willing to sign on and there are reports those that have are sorry they did.

    The mountains have been wrecked to the dismay of of those living too close and the only way to for relief is to move, something some are not willing or able to do and continue to suffer in various ways for almost 4 years since the project went online.

    Not only is the noise pollution an issue, but every turbine is leaking fluids and the turbines are streaked because of this problem. So much for clean and green. The ridges were blasted, dozed, chopped and filled with miles of huge roads on what used to be pristine!

    We are screwed, but don’t make the same mistake and let Iberdrola do the same to your communities as they don’t care about anything except financial gain!

    I used to call Hoosac Ridge the Enchanted Forest, but no more, now it’s the Wrecked Forest and I morn the loss of what was…

  2. Kathy Giurtino says:

    We watched Iberdrola operate in Maine. It is a foreign company that cares only about making money. It has a record in Maine of not following up on promises. They take from rural areas without giving anything valid back. The damage done to the forests and mountains is permanent and Iberdrola will be long gone, counting its money.

    Also, how can wind power be considered “green” when it takes amazing amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture, transport and construct these huge turbines? The statistic that we learned was that it would take at least 15 years of successful operation just to cancel out that much fossil fuel. By that time, the turbines are old and very likely ready to be replaced or removed. Who will remove them once they are no longer operable?

    Iberdrola will say whatever it thinks necessary to get what it wants. The power will not stay in Vermont. The mountains and forests will be permanently disfigured so that a Spanish company can get rich off the backs of others.

  3. David A. Cherry says:

    If the money distributed to residents of Windham and Grafton is not a bribe, why not include those who are not of voting age? Are children not as important as their parents? Recognizing the children are permanent residents, why not include them in the calculation when you divide the $350,000? OK, I understand, it is a bribe then.

  4. Dan Carluccio says:

    I have talked with several people that do not live in either Grafton or Windham but are very close. One person said to me they like the “windmills” because they are pretty. Another, with occupational roots in Grafton said the “town” was for it because of the money it generated for the town and town folk.

    Well if these are not the sounds of a herd of cattle I don’t know what is. Seems to be that whomever has the biggest cattle prod wins regardless of the real facts at hand. With the exception of the “secret” trio of Kathy SCOTT, Michael SIMMONDS and Walter WOODRUFF, and of course the “unbiased” Walter Meisner, has anyone really come forward with any positive meaningful reasoning for this project? Seriously folks, clear your heads!

    Dan Carluccio

  5. Jim Griesing says:

    Corrupt foreign firm – Iberdrola has a history of corruption, and they continuously change their story and offers. But not for the most recent bribe, there would be zero reason any resident would vote for this. Why would anyone believe they will honor any “commitment” and expect any money? They only do what is best for them.

    Destruction on many levels – if moved forward, this “green” project destroys thousand of acres of natural mountains (perhaps Vermont’s most precious resource). It will result in thousand of animals being killed. Worse, it will negatively impact health and quality of life forever, and will radically reduce property values.

    Lack of Due Process – Despite that Windham has an ordinance prohibiting wind turbines, and also has an elected government to represent ALL people, Iberdrola “negotiated” with a very small group of folks who seem motivated solely by a bribe.

    Property values and quality of life get ruined for all, yet second-home owners (who pay 60 percent of Windham’s total taxes) get zero…because they cannot vote and Iberdrola doesn’t need to bribe them. Also the self-elected group appears to only be in this for themselves, e.g. Why care about their neighbors?

    Doing The Right Thing – I trust the citizens of Windham and Grafton will overwhelmingly vote NO to end this charade and preserve so much of what is good against this greedy ploy. I also expect Iberola to then honor their word and move out of Windham-Grafton for good.

  6. Jo-Jo Chlebogiannis says:

    I digress Mr. Meister. Your company, your lobbyists, the very small process group that negotiated this bribe with monies paid for directly to an attorney by Iberdrola, did not in fact reach out to hundreds as you claim. There are countless, if not a couple of hundred people within these communities that you CHOSE to avoid to not speak to, myself included, as you knew how we had to research ourselves.

    I now have a deep distrust with the mere fact that the original proposal of locations and number of turbines was a red herring. I believed that your company Iberdrola would come back with the final proposal looking oh so much more amenable, and yes that’s exactly what happened.

    It’s sales and nothing else offer the worst and sell on a compromise, making people feel as though THEY won and GOT one over on you. It’s just business one on one.

    The bribe, for which it is as it is based solely on what people are voting for, will I hope, change laws in Vermont on what can and cannot be offered in exchange for a corporations purposes prior to an election. Your industry if so great, should be able to stand on its own merit, should it not?

    Although this is me clutching at straws, the bribe’s funds in my opinion are probably from subsidies that Iberdrola won’t have to pay taxes on either, unlike the poor souls who will if this project goes through.

    As the town clerk for Windham, I can speak without being adulterated. When someone came into the office and stated that they have never registered to vote before but needed to now in order to vote to get their money, it just confirmed the sickening process. If I were cash rich, I would create a foundation to cover their costs of taxes, just to preserve what your company so wants to destroy.

    But buyer beware Windham and Grafton process group negotiators, within a 24-hour period after the final proposal was made, I was approached and informed by non-residents of Windham that although they did not live in Windham, and have no intention of living in Windham, that their friends have welcomed them to the feasting of the green (dollars) should the project be voted on and consequently go through.

    May the awakening begin … I’m glad I woke up in time after drinking the IWs (industrial wind) media campaign Kool-aid for almost 15 years.

    As they say NIMBY (not in my backyard) ALSO translates into NIMBY (next it might be YOURS)!

  7. Joe Westclark says:

    You mean the medical doctor that worked for the fossil fuel industry for over 20 years Clara? The one from New Jersey lectured Vermonters last week how to care for our land? That medical doctor?

    OK if you don’t feel the Iberdrola business manager is credible, which is perfectly understandable, and the Telegraph arbitrarily feels their explanation is unsatisfactory, which it is not, then how about someone with a bit more credibility. I don’t know if the Telegraph will allow links to offsite opinion pieces, but here it is. http://www.rutlandherald.com/article/20161028/OPINION04/161029566/0

  8. Carol Lind says:


    I think the light that is being shed is that the representatives from Iberdrola are unclear themselves. They made statements and presented information at their meetings and are now trying to figure away out because of all the negative press they are getting about buying the votes.

    Meisner said they may or may not qualify residents based upon registered voters. Seems like they are still unsure how they will determine who gets payed. Meisner is their senior business manager! Don’t think you should take Copleman’s statement over his.

  9. Ken Mazer says:

    This project stinks! I own a vacation home a half-mile from the proposed turbines. Because I live and vote out of state, I get zero say in the process.

    Meanwhile, if the turbines are built, I and my family will be subjected to ceaseless noise while the value of our home plummets. How is that fair?

    I’m all in favor of wind turbine development, but do it responsibly so third-party neighbors don’t have to suffer the costs!

  10. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Hi Carol,

    My attempts were not to “interpret the intentions” of Iberdrola. It is to do what journalists should always do and that is to get a clear answer for our readers in the face of confusion.

    Iberdrola initially laid out one plan — that the payments were intended for registered voters. And Walt Meisner’s op-ed contained a different plan — that it was open to all full-time adult residents.

    After several unclear answers from Meisner, we decided to not only print his response but to print and credit properly a response that shed more light on the situation from another publication.

  11. Michael Matise says:

    The people of Windham have already voted against industrial wind turbines. It’s in the Town Plan, a democratically developed document that accurately reflects the will of its citizens.

    The upcoming referendum is an effort by Iberdrola to do an end-run around this since it is against their business interests.

    It allows them to have an unethical and skewed influence on the process by making promises to (some) residents that they would be foolish to expect them to fulfill.

    In addition, if turbines are allowed to be installed along the Stiles Brook tract ridgeline, it will eventually cost the residents far more to remediate the problems they will cause (flooding, impact on ecology, decommissioning) than they might gain in the short term.

    Indeed, even on an energy-saving basis, I would not be surprised if the total carbon cost of erecting and decommissioning these giant turbines in an undeveloped (and unspoiled) high elevation location might even come out negative.

  12. Carol Lind says:

    Why does the editor find Meisner’s response about the distribution of the money less credible than Copleman’s? Why does the editor choose to rely on one over the other?

    Seems like Iberdrola is not sure whether they are paying the registered voters or the full-time residents, so how could you determine what they mean?

    Bottom line is: the semantics do not matter, they are still attempting to buy the residents of Grafton and Windham. Seems like the editor should not try to interpret the intentions of Iberdrola.

  13. Clara Schoppe says:

    It’s telling that the well-crafted, well-researched letter against wind power on our mountain tops comes from a wildlife biologist whose only “vested interest” lay in the fact that he is a Vermonter who will have to live in the state that Iberdrola is raping, while the letter in favor of windpower on our mountain tops comes, not from any biologist nor wildlife researcher, nor medical doctor, but from the senior business manager of Iberdrola Renewables, whose arguments amount to how much his company will pay to Windham and Grafton residents to pimp out their neighbors.

  14. Rob Pforzheimer says:

    Iberdrola couldn’t care less about communities, birds and bats, wildlife habitat, headwaters or climate change. They are interested is money and getting as much as possible through subsidies, tax credits, accelerated depreciation and the sale of RECs.

    Iberdrola is being sued in NY over turbine noise, and in Ohio they are suing to keep bird and bat fatality reports from the public, claiming the data is a proprietary and its release would hurt their business.

    The Sheffield wind project on MTL property has killed hundreds of birds and bats and turbines have leaked oil. The 16 turbines and associated transformer in Sheffield contain 13,760 gallons of oil plus hydraulic fluids and antifreeze.

  15. David Acker says:

    Money does not make the harm go away. Protect the mountains from deforestation. Protect our friends.