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Warren Planning Commission continues wind power discussion

When it comes to wind energy, "The Valley could be a leader," Warren resident Dave Sellers said at the Warren Planning Commission meeting on Monday, May 13, detailing a history of innovation in the region as well as its geographic potential. "We have the resources to develop alternative energy," he said.

Sellers' comments came as part of an ongoing discussion on wind energy in Warren, as the planning commission looks to amend its Town Plan to more specifically outline goals and implementation strategies for the at-times controversial energy source.

When it comes to wind, "I would like to see the town cast as large a net as we can," planning commission member Randy Graves said, explaining that residents need to "get beyond a very narrow discussion of 'not in my backyard,'" and instead accept the responsibility of developing alternative technologies in order to preserve the planet for future generations. "You have to use technology for it to get better," he said.

Currently, Chapter 5 of the 2010 Warren Town Plan is titled "Power to the People" and states: "Small scale wind generation in The Valley is possible in certain areas and various projects have been proposed. Given the ever-rising costs of continued reliance on fossil fuels, there is likely to be increased interest in developing wind projects in The Valley. While Warren encourages the use of solar and small scale wind, a delicate balance must be sought in deciding the placement of solar and wind energy equipment."

All applications to build wind towers in town fall under the jurisdiction of the state's public service board, which considers individual town's Town Plans but does not necessarily abide by them. According to planning commission vice chair Michael Ketchel, however, the public service board is more likely to abide by a plan that doesn't "flat-out restrict wind energy," he said.

Thus, the commission agreed that when it comes to wind energy, they need to account for scale and setbacks. "I would hate to see someone build a wind tower where there is no wind," Warren resident John Barkhausen said at Monday's meeting. Barkhausen recently built a wind tower on his property that supplies about one-third of his household energy needs, but he worries that tax rebates could create incentive for some to build towers in less-than-efficient locations.

While model-based wind maps show Lincoln Ridge would be the best spot for wind towers in Warren, the presence of the Long Trail inhibits their construction. The next best spot for wind towers lies along the Northfield Ridge. Waitsfield, which shares the Northfield Ridge with Warren, has rewritten its Town Plan to prohibit commercial wind turbines above 1,700 feet and in other ecologically or aesthetically sensitive areas.

Sellers himself is interested in building three "community wind towers" on his property on Prickly Mountain. The towers would be hooked into the grid and be open to public use. "Ideally, we'd like to see them as an electric car charging facility," Sellers said. Of course, this is an "idealized" vision, he said.

The Warren Planning Commission at its next meeting on May 27 will continue to work on its goals and implementation strategies for alternative energy.

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