As in many parts of the eastern U.S., the wind power debate has been contentious in Vermont, most likely because there are few areas of flat land and the best wind speeds are found on highly visible mountain ridgelines. Still, despite the noisy objections of some (including the state's former Governor–a bitter opponent–and Vermonters for a Clean Environment, a nonprofit), it's been evident for a while that most Vermonters favor this clean energy source.
A recent vote in northern Vermont underscored that preference. Wind opponents framed the contest over a transmission line as a “referendum on wind,” and lost by a margin of more than 3 to 1. Here's a recent letter I received from the Clean Energy Program of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), a pro-wind nonprofit, that gives the context and some additional background on wind power's progress in the Green Mountain State:
From: Ben Walsh, VPIRG Advocate
Subject: Vermonters choose wind energy in a landslide vote
I like to think of Vermont as a leader. Vermont was the first state to abolish slavery, the first to pass civil unions, and the first to have a ski tow. We were even home to the very first megawatt-sized electric generating wind turbine in the world (on Grandpa’s Knob in Castleton, in 1941).
Since then, wind power has largely been ignored in Vermont as a source of clean, safe, local energy. That’s changing! Last month, members of the Vermont Electric Coop voted overwhelmingly (79%-21%) to approve upgrades to a key power line that will carry clean electricity from the Kingdom Community Wind Project in Lowell to Vermont homes and businesses.
Opponents of wind power said the vote was a referendum on wind and worked hard to kill the needed power line upgrade. VPIRG members worked hard to let VEC customers know the vote was happening and that the upgrade deserved their support. Thank you to all who helped get the word out and all who were able to vote!
If Vermont is going to have a clean energy future that keeps our money working in Vermont, for Vermonters, renewable wind power needs to be part of the mix. There is no “magic bullet answer” that will solve all of our energy needs but this victory, combined with solar power, efficiency and other renewable energy, puts Vermont on the right path forward.
The Kingdom Community Wind project is just one of the wind farms to gain big wins in recent months – as of right now, Vermont is on track to have new, operating wind projects in Lowell, Milton, Sheffield and Readsboro on line by the end of 2012. Together, those projects will generate enough energy to power more than 50,000 homes.
That’s a good start, but in order to build the clean energy economy you and I know Vermont needs, we have to continue to move forward with an ambitious agenda on all renewable energy fronts. We’ll be keeping you in the loop in the coming months as we get ready for a big push in the legislature on Vermont’s clean energy future.
Until then, thanks for all that you do.
Clean Energy Advocate
Public Opinion Watch: Wisconsin says “Yes!” to wind power, April 25, 2011