WINDHAM -- The state Public Service Board has granted permission for a developer to erect three controversial testing towers that may pave the way for Windham County's first commercial wind-turbine site.
The board granted a certificate of public good to Atlantic Wind LLC, which proposes two meteorological-testing towers in the Town of Windham and another in Grafton.
There are several conditions attached to the project. But it is good news for administrators of Atlantic Wind, which is a subsidiary of international wind-power giant Iberdrola Renewables.
The towers will be built on land owned by New Hampshire-based Meadowsend Timberlands Limited. Iberdrola administrators have said they hope to have enough data sometime in 2013 to determine whether the site can support wind turbines.
While Atlantic Wind's proposal has met with mixed reaction in Grafton, Windham officials took an immediate and firm stance against the MET towers.
Commercial wind turbines are banned by the Windham town plan, so the town's Selectboard and planning commission argued that the state board also should turn down the application for testing towers.
Vermont's Department of Public Service -- which is separate from the public service board -- sided with Windham. But Atlantic Wind contended that town plans do not and should not control the state's energy-permitting process.
The board apparently agreed, writing in a short decision that the MET towers "will promote the general good of the state."
The board also imposed conditions including:
-- Construction, operation and maintenance of the towers must conform to the plans Atlantic Wind submitted. The board must approve any "material deviation," officials said.
-- The towers and associated equipment must be removed within three years.
-- The certificate of public good cannot be transferred to another entity without prior board approval.
-- With the exception of emergencies, construction and maintenance of the towers is prohibited from April 15 to May 15 and from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30.
-- Atlantic Wind must provide an annual report to the state Agency of Natural Resources "documenting the number of entries onto the meteorological sites and explaining the reason for each entry."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.