2 surveys show more support than opposition for wind energy project in Barre

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 October 2018 at 5:57 pm

BARRE — Two recent surveys of residents in Barre show a proposed wind energy project has more support than opposition in the town.

Apex Clean Energy is proposing a 200-megawatt project with 47 turbines. Apex hasn’t detailed the size of the turbines, but they could top 500 to 600 feet high in the eastern and southern portions of the town.

The town hired a consultant, LaBella Associates, which did a survey for Barre about the wind energy project. The company’s report to the Barre Town Board on Sept. 10 says that the survey was done in June and July. The responses were taken on-line and in person at the Barre Town Hall.

By the survey deadline of July 27, a total of 325 survey submissions (online and hard copies) were received, and 290 (89 percent) submissions were accepted. Removed from analysis were 35 duplicate and invalid submissions, LaBella said.

The company said duplicate submissions were either combined with or replaced the previous submissions. Responses were considered invalid if submitted from respondents who do not reside in Barre or in any of its bordering municipalities. If the respondents indicated they work or own land in Barre, their submissions were accepted regardless of their residence status.

Of the 290 respondents, 44 percent said they are supportive of the project, while 39 percent oppose it, 8 percent are neutral and 7 percent need more information.

Wildlife, property values and roads were the most cited resources of value to the community, according to the survey.

The most pressing concerns involve complaint resolution procedure and decommissioning plans, LaBella said.

Residents also are concerned about potential impacts to tax rates and property values, as well as setbacks from property lines, and TV, cell phone and radio reception impacts.

Other concerns, ranked lower in importance, included roadway deterioration, change in rural character, and change in views from the height of turbines.

A summary version of the survey results is available on the Town of Barre website.

Apex Clean Energy today also announced the results of a survey it commissioned of town residents. Apex hired the public affairs and community outreach firm Cornerstone Solutions to complete its survey.

The survey included 170 responses from area residents, with 52 percent stating they support the project, compared to 22 percent who say they oppose it. Additionally, when respondents who were initially undecided or leaning against supporting the project were provided information about the benefits it would bring the community, 33 percent of them said they were more likely to support the project, Apex said today in a news release.

The phone survey was conducted in July.

“We did not want to release our results sooner, because we did not want to influence the Town of Barre’s survey of a similar nature,” said Ben Yazman, development manager of Heritage Wind. “But now that those results have been released, we thought it might be helpful to let the community know that we found very similar results in a recent survey we conducted to inform our public engagement work.”

Yazman said the company knew from experience it had strong local support for the proposed Heritage Wind project.

“Apex has spent the past few years in Orleans County talking to hundreds of people who have shown significant interest in wind energy,” he said. “This phone survey gave us the opportunity to double-check our understanding by asking a large, randomly selected sampling of local people for their opinion, and we were pleased to see that these results strongly supported our previous assessment.”

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