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FAQ

Answers to some of the questions you might ask about GMP Wind Power.

Lowell Ridgeline during Northern Lights, Photo by Ralph Eames Photography

What is Kingdom Community Wind?

Green Mountain Power worked with Vermont Electric Cooperative to build 21 wind turbines on Lowell Mountain as a new source of renewable energy in Vermont.  The project began generating electricity at the end of 2012.

How much electricity does Kingdom Community Wind produce?

The wind turbines at Kingdom Community Wind are 3 MW VESTAS V112, some of the newest technology on the market. The plant produces approximately 186,000 MWH annually or the equivalent of enough electricity to power more than 24,000 homes each year.

Will the power stay in Vermont?

YES! Every single kilowatt hour of electricity will be used by Green Mountain Power customers and Vermont Electric Cooperative members. Refer to page 4 to learn about the Renewable Energy Credits (REC), a process by which we sell the environmental attributes to other utilities and pass the savings to our customers.  

How does wind keep pollutants out of the air?

Based on initial estimates for power production, clean energy from KCW will prevent more than 74,000 tons of CO2 per year from entering the earth’s atmosphere from fossil fuel generating plants.  In general, every megawatt hour that a wind plant generates is a megawatt hour a plant – for the most part fossil fuel fired -- somewhere else in New England does not need to operate.  

Why are the turbines sometimes not running?

Wind is variable along the length of the ridge and may cause some turbines at different points along the ridge to spin at different speeds. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough wind to turn the blades.  Other reasons why the turbines may not be spinning include routine maintenance and requests from ISO New England for specific output levels.

How will GMP decommission the turbines and above-ground infrastructure?

Green Mountain Power has $6.1 million in a protected decommissioning fund.  Decommissioning includes, among other things, the requirement that GMP remove all above-ground components and structures associated with the KCW Project and those below ground to a depth of at least two feet and transport them off-site for recycling or disposal, and re-grade all areas excavated during decommissioning to provide for permanent soil stabilization and to promote establishment of appropriate vegetation. 

Does wind power work?

Absolutely.  Wind provides clean, renewable energy when the wind is blowing, and building sites are chosen based on having a good wind resource.  The electric grid is designed to accommodate the different operating characteristics of all types of generation – such as nuclear power and large hydro, which run almost all the time, and gas turbines that can be turned on when customer demand is at its highest. Renewable resources, in general, are intermittent, meaning they run when the “fuel” is available, whether it is the sun, water or wind.

As customer demand increases and decreases throughout the day, intermittent resources are easily incorporated into the total operation of the grid. The benefit of wind generation, as well as hydro, solar, and other renewable energy plants, is that when they are producing power, generation from other plants in New England, most often fossil fuel plants, can be reduced.

Why do turbines need to be located along ridgelines?

Winds are stronger and more persistent at higher elevations, and the simple fact is that at lower elevations – even where mountains and other obstructions do not block the wind – the winds are not sufficient to generate economically viable power on a commercial scale.

Will Kingdom Community Wind affect property values?

According to CleanTechnica, nine major and statistically reliable studies covering roughly 270,000 property transactions by different respected and independent organizations in three different countries spread over fifteen years have found no correlation between operating wind turbines and negative property values.

Do the turbines create sound?

Yes, turbines create sound, but Vermont has strict standards for wind projects that must be adhered to.  The standard is 45 db (averaged over an hour) outside a home – roughly the noise level of a quiet library.  There are free apps available for mobile devices that measure sound – it’s worth downloading one to get a sense of what 45 db is like.  

Is the sound being monitored?

To assure KCW is staying within the allowed sound levels set forth by the Public Service Board, GMP has adopted a rigorous sound monitoring protocol.  During the first two years of operations, four different locations near the wind farm have been monitored for sound four times a year for two-week periods or longer each time, for a total of 10,934 hours monitored and analyzed. During the first few months of operating we discovered four hours where the sound slightly exceeded the standards and we determined it was caused by snow build up on the blades. We installed sophisticated weather monitoring equipment to help us avoid operating during those conditions and have met the sound requirements since that time in early 2013. Individuals who live in the vicinity of the turbines can report any noise concerns to Dorothy.Schnure@greenmountainpower.com or call 802-324-4418.

Does sound monitoring include infrasound?

Infrasound is audio frequencies below the level of human hearing.  Infrasound commonly occurs in nature from numerous sources including surf, aurora borealis, solar flares, and thunderstorms.   After extensive testimony from sound experts, the PSB concluded that the wind turbines are not likely to emit audible or perceivable infrasound. As a result, the Board did not require monitoring for infrasound.  

Does the sound produced by wind turbines cause health effects?

More than 50,000 turbines are currently in operation in Europe and more than 30,000 in North America. Most people consider them good neighbors. While some individuals have complained that living near turbines causes health effects due to noise, multiple studies have failed to find that sound from wind turbines directly causes health effects. In fact, a recent study showed that of 49 legal cases heard globally relating to wind farms and health, 48 were determined to have no reliable evidence showing wind farms cause health impacts.

There is nothing unique about the type of noise produced by an operating wind turbine.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, at a distance of 1,140 feet, modern wind turbines can be expected to be about as noisy as a quiet bedroom – 35-40 decibels, which compares to about 40 decibels for a typical rural night-time background.  The closest neighbor to KCW is more than 3,400 feet away.

Do the turbines have lights?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires lights on anything over 200 feet tall. KCW has eight red LED lights that blink slowly and do not create glare, similar to the ones atop tall buildings and communications towers. We currently have a request in to the FAA to use Obstacle Collision Avoidance System (OCAS) radar.  This system, currently used in Europe, would allow the lights to stay off unless aircraft are in the area. 

How will the development affect water quality and the environment?

Green Mountain Power worked closely with the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources to ensure the smallest possible impact on water quality and the environment.  Water quality in streams in the vicinity of the site were fully protected during both the construction phase and operational phase of the project.  This includes the hydrology, the water chemistry, and the aquatic biota, specifically fish and aquatic insects.  The permits establish extremely protective standards and requirements, and extensive monitoring has found no evidence of water quality impacts due to construction and operation of the wind plant. 

How much land was disturbed to build the project?

The land leased for the project has been an active logging operation for decades. Of the thousands of acres that comprise Lowell Mountain a total of 135 acres was used for the wind plant. Of those, 45 acres have been re-vegetated using native plants and mulch produced from the project itself. Direct impact to bear habitat totaled 20 acres, impact to wetlands totaled half an acre, and for high level wetlands the impact was one-tenth of an acre.  To mitigate these impacts and the habitat fragmentation caused by the road, GMP procured conservation easements on more than 2,800 acres. The conserved area includes more than 1,100 acres on Lowell Mountain, and more than 1,600 acres in Eden connecting important wildlife corridors between Green River Reservoir and the Lowell wildlife habitat area. 

What are you doing to protect bats?

The operation of the turbines is regulated based on the atmospheric conditions that affect the behavior of bats. These conditions include the time of day, wind speed, and temperature.  When bats are active the turbines pause.

Is wind generation subsidized?

Yes.  Wind power receives federal tax incentives based on production and effectiveness.  The full amount of these incentives flow through to GMP customers and VEC members by lowering the cost of the energy produced by the project. It is also important to bear in mind that many forms of electric generation enjoy federal and sometimes state tax or other financial incentives.  Wind is not unique in this regard.

How do Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) lower the cost of electricity for Vermonters?

The purpose of the REC market is to provide incentives to develop renewable generation, like wind power. In all New England states except Vermont, utilities need RECs to meet state-mandated renewable energy requirements, and thus increase the amount of renewable energy they can claim. These out-of-state utilities are looking for RECs to purchase.  Because of this, and because the Vermont law encourages our utilities to sell their RECs in order to lower the cost of electricity for their customers, GMP is currently selling the RECs associated with KCW.  When considering the REC issue it is important to recognize that GMP and VEC control the RECs. We can choose to sell them to benefit our respective customers or members, or if the regulatory environment evolves so Vermont utilities are required to have RECs associated with a percentage of the electricity we sell, we can retain any RECs required, as opposed to having to buy them at market prices.

Can I visit the Kingdom Community Wind Farm?

Yes! We love bringing people up the mountain to learn more about the benefits of wind power.  We offer public tours once a week during June, July and August to give the community a chance to learn more about Vermont's most abundant renewable resource and the amazing technology we use to harness the wind. To sign up for tours, go to http://www.greenmountainpower.com/innovative/wind/windtours/ or contact Gert or Andy Tetreault at 802-744-6664 or gert@kingdomcommunitywind.com.

Who can I contact about Kingdom Community Wind?

Dorothy Schnure, GMP, 802-655-8418, Dorothy.Schnure@greenmountainpower.com

Robert Dostis, GMP, 802-655-8412 Robert.Dostis@greenmountainpower.com

Dave Hallquist, VEC, 802-730-1138, dhallquist@vermontelectric.coop