EAST BURKE, VT - On the same day that two other local controversial wind projects were front and center in the media statewide, a small ceremony marked the installation of a 123-foot tall wind turbine at the top of Burke Mountain.
There were no protesters, although a Caledonia County Sheriff’s Deputy was on the scene. About 25 people made up the crowd and the Tamarack Grill from Burke served hot cocoa, brownies and cookies.
About a dozen kids from Miller's Run School, who had originally planned on going for an afternoon hike, “stumbled upon the event,” according to their chaperone Annie Gibavic, and they joined in the celebration.
Governor Peter Shumlin and his entourage of three state troopers, Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding, and Public Service Board Commissioner Elizabeth Miller were also on hand for the ribbon cutting, following another ribbon cutting earlier in the day at the Sheffield wind project.
AJ Siebel, a full time employee at Burke Mountain who manages the ski shop during the winter and runs the campground in the summer, came to witness the event with his wife and two young children. He said the tower will be a great “green” asset for Burke and another reason for people to visit the mountain.
The turbine was designed and manufactured by Northern Power Systems based in Barre, VT, and installed by Alteris Renewables from Waitsfield. Royal Electric from Woodsville, NH, completed the electric work for the turbine and transmission line.
"The overall project cost for the wind turbine were just under $900,000 and, as you know, we received some low interest loans from ARRA funds as well as a grant," said Tim McGuire, vice president and general manager of Burke Mountain Operating company.
Many local contractors were used to complete the project.
Governor Peter Shumlin told the crowd that he has seen wind towers around the world but this turbine was much more reliable and quieter then most. “The only noise you hear now is from the door to the base being open, much like the wind hums when it passes over a bottle or can. When that door is closed, you won’t hear a thing,” said the Governor.
The tower is located at the top of Burke Mountain and skiers will be able to get a closer look this winter since it is only a short distance away from the new quad chairlift being installed. The ski slope passes less than about 75 yards away. The blades are 35 feet long and the 100 kilowatt turbine is projected to produce nearly 20 percent of Burke Mountains electrical usage. It only needs 8 mph of wind to start turning, and the annual average wind speed at the summit of Burke is over 19 mph.
This is the fourth turbine installed at a ski area in the United States and the first wind turbine constructed on Vermont State Forest Parks and Recreation land.
Funding for the project was partially provided by a grant from VEDA (Vermont Economic Development Authority). According to their website: “$500,000 to Burke Mountain Corporation as part of a $973,157 project to install a wind turbine, de-icing system, and transformer at the mountain. Through installing the wind turbine system and connecting to the utility grid, Burke hopes to reduce operating costs and ensure energy sustainability at the mountain.”