Iberdrola a major player in wind power

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WINDHAM -- As an executive for Iberdrola Renewables, Jenny Briot knows something about wind power.

"We’re operating over 5,000 megawatts across the country," Briot said. "We’re the second largest producer of wind in the United States and the largest in the world."

But as the company looks to add to that portfolio in Windham County, administrators also are familiar with the controversy that sometimes accompanies talk of commercial turbines.

In fact, they’ve spent eight years trying to develop the 15-turbine Deerfield Wind Project in neighboring Bennington County. Envisioned as a sort of companion to the existing, 6-megawatt Searsburg Wind Facility operated by Green Mountain Power, Deerfield was designed to extend into Green Mountain National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service approved the project, and developers already have a certificate of public good from Vermont Public Service Board.

But in late February, a nonprofit called Vermonters for a Clean Environment appealed the Forest Service’s decision. The group -- which is concerned about the environmental impact of turbine construction and operation -- calls the government’s approval "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to law."

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Legal arguments are expected later this year, said Iberdrola Renewables spokesman Paul Copleman.

"The Forest Service decision has been appealed, and the court process for that is ongoing as we speak," Copleman said.

It is unclear whether there could be similar legal wrangling over Iberdrola’s newly disclosed plan to place meteorological towers on privately owned land in the towns of Windham and Grafton. Data from those towers could determine -- possibly as soon as next summer -- whether turbines are feasible on that property.

Iberdrola Renewables, a subsidiary of Spain-based Iberdrola S.A., is no stranger to this part of the country. The company operates the 24-megawatt Lempster Wind Power Project in Sullivan County, New Hampshire. The site began producing power in November 2008.

Copleman said the company also has two New England wind projects under construction -- Groton Wind in Groton, N.H. and Hoosac Wind Project in northern Massachusetts.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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