Swanton-area leaders react to withdrawn wind turbine project application

SWANTON, Vt. — Leaders in Swanton are declaring victory following news that Swanton Wind has withdrawn its application for a seven-turbine project expected to generate 20 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for an estimated 7,800 homes.

Project manger Nick Charyk, in a news release sent out early in the week, said the developer is pausing development.

“Today, Swanton Wind LLC announced that it is pausing development work and will voluntarily withdraw its application for a certificate of public good from Vermont’s Public Utility Commission,” the press release states. “Citing concerns about newly proposed federal tax changes and an unpredictable permitting process at the state level, Swanton Wind explained that development work will be put on hold.”

Photo courtesy of Town of Swanton

NO TURBINES AFTER ALL: After years of struggle, the town of Swanton will no longer have an industrial scale wind turbine project looming in the planning phases while residents stress. This photo rendering portrays what things might have looked like from the home of a nearby resident.

Charyk said the project has become too risky in light of multiple recent developments.

“A prudent business must manage risk to an acceptable level,” he said. “Unfortunately, a confluence of factors has combined to create an unacceptable level of business risk. Uncertainty around the federal tax policies that drive the economics of independent power projects like Swanton Wind have significantly impacted project financing.

“Here in Vermont, the project currently faces a hostile environment from an administration opposed to wind energy, regulators, and monopoly utilities who import a majority of Vermont’s power while opposing many independent local power projects.”

Some Swanton Selectboard members expressed relief over the news.

“I think it’s great news for the community,” said board member Dan Billado. “The Selectboard fought this hard; we had a lot of people opposed to it that fought this hard. We were pretty much told that we weren’t going to beat this.”

He said they’ve had support from St. Albans and Fairfield selectboards in terms of finances for legal fees. Billado said if the process had been allowed to drag on, the costs would have kept going up.

“It costs the taxpayers a lot of money for lawyers, and additionally we had two other towns that helped us out with the burden of legal costs,” he said. “That’s taxpayers’ money, that we had to spend to fight something that was not in the best interest of the taxpayers.”

Concerns about the project ranged from aesthetics and environmental impacts to health impacts via the sound and vibrations that large turbines are know to emit.

“You’re talking 500-foot towers — tell me anywhere else in the state of Vermont where there is a 500-foot structure?” Billado said. “That’s 50 stories. Even the windmills on Georgia Mountain or Lowell are not 500 feet.”

Billado added that renewable energy credits — an added financial value to green energy projects — would likely have been sold out of state. Moreover, the power was not demanded by local utilities, so the electricity may have been sold out of state as well.

If there is a re-submission of the application in the future, it will happen under a more stringent regional planning document, which on page 16 specifically excludes industrial wind turbines. That’s in addition to new sound rules developed by the Public Utilities Commission that call for stronger decibel limits for day time and night time operation.

Swanton Selectboard Chair Joel Clark and Vice Chair James Guilmette also spoke with True North, and both said local constituents were almost exclusively against the project for a combination of reasons.

The developers were undergoing a “system impact study” to determine what was going to be needed on the local grid if the project went forward. Sally Collopy, one of the residents who led opposition to the project, told True North that grid capacity may have played a role in the withdrawal.

“Did the SIS [System Impact Study] disclose something unfavorable, and if so shouldn’t we be allowed to know?”

She added that she worries the project could return at some point.

“Other industrial wind projects that have gone away have made similar threats. Maybe it’s a saving face type of statement, or maybe they’re hoping that a pro-industrial wind administration will come into office,” she said.

“But as tax credits decline, grid constraints continue, and Vermonters become more educated about the harmful effects of industrial wind, I think any community is going to have a very hard time getting a project supported.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of town of Swanton/Christine Lang
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5 thoughts on “Swanton-area leaders react to withdrawn wind turbine project application

  1. Another assault by the nanny state and NIMBY groups attempting to erode landowner rights. The Belisles have a resource with their property they should be entitled to utilize for profit and to provide electricity to the region.

    The irony is that if the Belisles wanted to put in any other form of land use development on their land True North Reports would instead of celebrating this as a victory, would call this out as they do any time a landowner’s rights are reduced by the state. It is time to recognize that VT has been taken over by NIMBY groups and that is what is leading to more and more state overreach.

  2. Cape Wind, started in 2001, 468 MW, turnkey capital cost $2.6 billion, $5550/kW, to be located south of Nantucket, highly visible to many multi-millionaires summering on the Island, has finally been cancelled as of 1 December 2017.

    The negotiated Cape Wind PPA calls for 18.7 c/kWh the first year, increasing at 3.5% per year for 20 years, to reach 37.2 c/kWh in the 20th year. These are wholesale prices.

    New England wholesale prices have averaged about 5 c/kWh for steady, 24/7/365 electricity since about 2008, primarily due to:

    1) Natural gas electricity; 50% of NE generation; low-cost (less than 5 c/kWh), low-CO2 emitting, no particulates, domestic fuel
    2) Nuclear electricity; 26% of NE generation; low-cost (less than 5 c/kWh), minimal-CO2 emitting, no particulates, domestic fuel

    Unwise Decisions in Massachusetts: Massachusetts has a new energy law requiring utilities to procure electricity generated by 1,600 MW of offshore wind turbines (nameplate capacity) by June 30, 2027. The turnkey capital cost of such wind turbine systems, plus wiring to shore, plus onshore grid modifications, would be at least $9 to $10 billion, and the electricity cost would be at least 18 – 20 c/kWh for the first year. In view of the high costs of wind electricity, it would be extremely unwise to proceed along that path.

    The Reality of Wind Electricity in New England: This article further explains the realities of the environmental destruction and cost of onshore and offshore wind electricity in New England.

    Exploiting Fear of Climate Change to Benefit Multi-Millionaires: The wind turbine power plant is owned by Deepwater Wind LLC, a part of the D. E. Shaw Group, a global investment and technology firm with $38 billion of invested capital as of July 1, 2016. Multi-millionaires, with lucrative, risk-free, tax shelters, put up the capital and expect high, mostly tax-free returns.

    Wall Street financial services firms saw a huge opportunity for tax shelter business. Their lobbyists told Congress exactly what laws to pass to make happen wind and solar build-outs, etc.

    As is usual practice, the uninformed US public was subjected to a media blitz the world was burning up and coming to an end.
    Publications, such as the business- friendly New York Times and Wall Street Journal, published mostly favorable articles about wind and solar. The public was told all was done to save the world.

    The US Congress, under pressure of Wall Street, passed tax laws favorable to wind and solar build-outs, etc., and to enable the tax-free returns.

    Various government agencies, EPA, Department of Energy, EIA, et al., performed “studies” with dire climate change predictions, and/or gave grants to “independent” entities to make studies with similar predictions, to convince the public the end of the world would be near, unless….

    NOTE: Warren Buffett, considered one of the outstanding investors of all-time, has stated: “On wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit”. Buffett has investments in multiple wind sites, as do many other multi-billion dollar entities. Buffett and his cohorts hire tax accountants/lawyers to refine the subsidy-milking art form, as well as PR pros and RE lobbyists to continually increase the milking, via higher RPS targets and renewed subsidy periods.

  3. Cape Wind was cancelled on 1 December 2017.

    The project started in 2001

    Located south of Nantucket, a Republican Island, so many multi millionaires would have a good view of it.

    It is had been located near Martha’s Vineyard it might have had a better chance, because that is a Democrat Island.

    There was a small hitch.

    No utility wanted to sign a long term agreement at about 18.5 c/kWh, increasing at 3.5%/y for 20 years.

    NE wholesale prices have averaged at less than 5 c/kWh since 2009.

  4. Glad to hear this news. There is nothing wrong with importing power that costs 4.5 cents per kWh and which is steady, reliable and capable of keeping the lights on 24/7. Wind can’t do that and destroys our most valuable places. People are catching on to the fact that wind is a terrible deal on so many fronts and makes darn poor quality power to boot.

  5. Well done Swanton Wind Opponents. Your fortitude and well researched and persistant effort has made you a MODEL of citizen activism—YOU THE PEOPLE prevailed and Vermont owes you its gratitude.

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