Pittsford wrangles over wind project


PITTSFORD — A proposal to place a single wind turbine on Grandpa’s Knob in nearby Castleton was met with 90 minutes of public outcry at Pittsford’s selectboard meeting last Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Sam Carlson, who works in community relations for Grandpa’s Knob Community Wind, said that the project is only in its infancy and that he wanted Pittsford and its neighboring communities to be involved in the construction and siting of the turbine from the get-go.

The turbine, if constructed, would be built within the town limits of Castleton. But its size, effect on the landscape and economic impact would also affect the towns of Hubbardton, West Rutland, Pittsford and Proctor. Each town needs to approve of the project if it is to proceed smoothly.

The proposed 1.5 MW turbine would stand at 295 feet, from the ground to the turbine’s generator hub. The blades would measure an additional 143 feet — making the total height in the sky just shy of 440 feet.

Because the project would be built near an existing road, no new roads would need to be built for the construction of the tower, Carlson said.

Carlson said the visual impact wouldn’t be the only effect of the turbine – tax revenue and other benefits would also result from the project’s construction and operation, he said.

But Carlson’s presentation provoked bitter memories of a previous battle against a larger wind turbine project proposed by a different entity in 2012. That project – which never came to fruition – aimed to construct 20 wind turbines along the Grandpa’s Knob ridgeline.

Around a dozen area residents attended the meeting to speak against the single turbine project on Wednesday, which Town Manager John Haverstock said was expected.

Carlson tried to steer the conversation about the project to what he said was a way to commemorate the Smith-Putnam wind turbine, which stood on Grandpa’s Knob from 1941 until one of its blades failed in March 1945.

The 1.25 MW Smith-Putnam wind turbine was the first of its kind in the world. This current project would honor and build off that historical context.

But many residents at the meeting worried that the construction of a single turbine would pave the way for many others to be built on the ridgeline just as the 2012 project had proposed.

Over and over, residents emphasized they did not want the turbine on Grandpa’s Knob. Some pointed out that construction of a wind turbine would go against comprehensive plans in Pittsford and in other surrounding towns.

Others were wary of Carlson’s appeals to make the turbine a community project. One resident told Carlson that the project should try to find a home in a wealthier part of the state.

“I hate that any town would prostitute themselves just for a little money,” another resident said.

But Carlson maintained that the project isn’t about the money.

“You don’t make a lot of money on a single wind turbine project,” he said. “You just don’t.”

He added that he hopes that bringing transparency to the project will sway residents.

“We’re not going to be hiding anything,” Carlson said. “We’re going to be honest (and) we’re going to be transparent.”

Meeting attendees still weren’t convinced.

“I do not want you in my backyard,” one person said. “I do not know how many more times I can say it. Stay out of my backyard.”

Selectman Joe Gagnon – the only member of the selectboard and person in the room who remembered the Smith-Putnam turbine – said that a wind turbine on Grandpa’s Knob would not affect him much, but that that’s not the whole point.

“Before I say it’s a good thing, I’d want to get close to it and see what the hell is going on,” he said at the meeting.

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