Saturday November 24, 2012

COLCHESTER (AP) -- A proposed three-year moratorium on ridgeline wind energy projects in Vermont could dampen any future investment in renewable energy, a developer says.

But Caledonia Republican Sen. Joe Benning, a proponent of a three-year moratorium, said the Northeast Kingdom is being targeted by wind developers and a delay is needed so the state can study the cost and the environmental impact of the projects.

"It certainly sends a clear signal to investors in clean energy in Vermont that it’s not a safe and reasonable place to make those investments. And I think it would serve to certainly stifle those investments," said Jack Kenworthy, manager of Seneca Mountain Wind, which is working on a 40-turbine project in three towns in the region that would become the state’s largest.

There are two industrial wind power facilities in the Northeast Kingdom. A 16-turbine project in Sheffield went online last year. A 21-turbine project in Lowell is just beginning operation. The last turbine there was connected to the electric grid Nov. 21.

Benning said the moratorium, which has bi-partisan support in the Senate, is needed. "The Northeast Kingdom does not need to be the pinwheel cushion for the rest of the state of Vermont just because some politicians have decided industrial strength wind is the way to go."

The moratorium proposal is likely to face strong opposition in the House.