DERBY - The Derby Planning Commission wants the town polled on how residents feel about wind projects. The commission has recommended the select board conduct a non-binding referendum during Town Meeting 2013.
Planners voted unanimously on the recommendation at their Oct. 22 meeting and then discussed the energy section of the town plan at their Nov. 5 meeting. About a dozen people attended the Nov. 5 meeting including Dave Hallquist, the CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative (VEC).
A few in the audience expressed concern about the referendum while others, including Derby farmer Bryan Davis, expressed support. Davis had a plan to build a 400-foot turbine on his property just east of the village of Derby Line, which created intense controversy in both the U.S. and Canada. Davis’ farm is just across the street from the international border. The plan is stalled for now.
“I don’t see how the town can ask people to vote when we have no setback for turbines – we have nothing and I refuse to go through another fiasco like Derby Line Wind,” said resident Glenda Nye. Nye said there is not enough information available to ask for a vote.
“This board just admitted they don’t have enough information but you’re going to put it out for a vote?” Nye questioned. “That’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Nye, Dick Fletcher, Maureen Fountain and others agreed and said they would like the town to understand the effects of turbines and the public needs more education. Fletcher pointed to a few places including Massachusetts, Maine, New York, Canada, and the Sheffield wind project where problems exist with turbines near residential areas.
Derby Select Board Chairman Brian Smith noted that there are far more than a few turbine locations across the country and suggested that most have no problems or complaints.
Nye and others pointed out that NVDA (Northern Vermont Development Association) adopted a three-year moratorium on wind projects and is conducting studies. Some in the audience questioned why the town in not following NVDA's lead.
Derby Select Board member Karen Jenne, who was in the audience, recommended following the NVDA moratorium and waiting until they conduct research.
Resident Susan Taylor said she has a health issue and she would have to move if a turbine is built in her view-shed.
Davis said Derby has a very good wind resource and he thinks it’s a great idea to put it up for a vote to the town. “If I don’t have the support I think I do, I will go home and be quiet," he said.
Hallquist decided to chime in. He said the co-op (VEC) supports local generation, and said that any new generation facility creates controversy.
As a utility, VEC must attain the lowest cost energy, Hallquist noted, but is also bound by the Vermont Legislature to use local renewable energy. According to Hallquist, wind is currently the lowest priced renewable energy.
VEC is buying about half of the energy produced in Sheffield for about 4.6 cents per kilowatt hour. The price would be 14 cents, but is lower because of the selling of Renewable Energy Credits (RECS), he stated.
Nye took issue with the selling of RECS, noting that energy producers such the coal industry buy up the credits and continue polluting.
Hallquist said that 80 percent of VEC members who voted were in favor of the Lowell wind project, but also noted that only 20 percent of the membership voted. After questioning from Fountain on what the majority feels, Hallquist admitted he has no idea what the other 80 percent of the members are thinking.
The planners will continue to discuss the issue of energy including wind in Derby, but it’s up to the select board to put the question to the voters at Town Meeting in March.