BY ANGELO LYNN
PROCTOR — A half dozen Proctor residents spoke out against a renewable energy project slated for Grandpa’s Knob in Castleton that would seek to place a single 450-foot-tall wind turbine on the ridgeline there. Sam Carlson, who works in community relations for Grandpa’s Knob Community Wind, presented the project to the Proctor selectboard Monday night and fielded a few questions afterward.
Carlson explained that the focus of the nonprofit community wind project was to honor the historic presence of the world’s first wind turbine, the Smith-Putnam turbine, which was built there in 1941 and remained in operation until one of its blades failed in 1945. The new turbine would be close to that historic location. The base of the turbine would include historic markers and explanatory graphics going into the significance of that first project. Ample digital material on an accompanying website would also be displayed.
While the 1.5 MW turbine, manufactured by Goldwind, would measure 295 feet to the generator hub, and the blades would sweep 143 higher than the hub, creating a significant visual presence on the western side of the ridgeline, Carlson emphasized it would not be reminiscent of a 2012 project that sought to build up to 20 wind turbines along Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline.
“Our goal is to only build one wind turbine,” Carlson said, explaining that the cost would be about $4.5 million and that after the project was paid off, the nonprofit would split all future revenues with surrounding towns on a 50-50 basis. While Carlson said he expected the wind turbine to have a minimum lifetime of 20 years, he did not say how quickly the project would be paid off, nor how much revenue towns might be projected to receive. It was also unclear if Proctor would be considered one of the surrounding towns and, therefore, eligible to receive part of the profits.
Proctor, it was explained, was not directly contiguous to Castleton, nor would the wind turbine been seen from very many locations in Proctor. Carlson said he was presenting the project to Proctor residents just to be certain not area residents were uninformed of the potential project.
Nonetheless, several area residents were at the meeting in person to speak against the project, as were a couple people who watched the meeting remotely. Of those opposing the project, most were adamant that the project did not significantly add to Vermont’s renewable energy generation, would establish a bad precedent that could allow other wind turbine developers to build more turbines at a future date, and that the structures were an eyesore on the landscape. While everyone who spoke was in favor of alternative energy development, they were opposed to the project.
“I tell them to go away, just go away,” said one woman in the back of the room. “We’re happy the way we are.”
The selectboard also noted that the wind turbine project was be in violation of Proctor’s town plan, as well as in violation of the Rutland County Regional Development plan.
Lisa Miser, Proctor’s librarian, challenged Carlson on the using the history of the historic turbine as a front to get a money-making project approved. “You’re not honoring people with the history of the first wind turbine here,” she said, “this is just a bit of salesmanship” to cloak a project that was going to make big money for a few people.
The discussion lasted about 20-25 minutes, after which Carlson left to present at the Castleton selectboard meeting. Town Manager Michael Ramsey later pointed out that the town has an Enhanced Energy Plan that outlines guidance on wind energy (see proctorvermont.com/wp-content/uploads/Adopted-Proctor-Muncipal-Plan-6-8-2020.pdf) and that the board would likely follow that policy in taking a position on this proposed project.
In other business, the selectboard:
• Discussed road classifications that restrict large trucks from using certain town roads to get to the OMYA quarry with Judy Taranovich, owner of Proctor Gas. The selectboard explained that the town’s policy was restrictive in some cases to protect the integrity of their smaller roads and to keep large trucks from using those throughways, even if it impacted the use of the roads by slightly smaller trucks.
• Discussed other highway commission, water commission and sewer commission issues, but took no action.
• Under the manager’s report, got updated on numerous projects and approved a set of new rules of engagement at the town skating rink (both roller and ice skating) which clearly established expectations of personal conduct and responsibility.
• Called for the establishment of a committee of local residents to oversee a town VOREC grant that would be used to create new trails within Proctor and to connect to nearby existing trails.
• Appointed the Town’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Kevin Blongy, to join the Emergency Management Director (Ramsey) on the Regional Emergency Management Committee.
• Talked about hosting a celebratory opening of the North Street Bridge soon after its completion.