Fight Over A Wind Turbine In Holland Pits Pastoral Beauty Against Renewable Energy

Dec 27, 2016

A nearly 500-foot tall proposed wind turbine is causing contention in the small town of Holland in the Northeast Kingdom. But this is just the latest in a series of controversial renewable energy projects causing a stir in the rural area, pitting pastoral beauty against innovative environmental causes.

It is windy just about every day on the Champney's property in the very northern reaches of Vermont.

That is why Brian and Kim Champney are looking to lease a portion of their land to developer David Blittersdorf for a 499-foot wind turbine, calling it the Dairy Air Wind Project.

“I kind of think it's our duty to try and better the future for our children and our neighbors’ children,” Brian Champney said. “I wholeheartedly believe in renewable energy.”

Standing on the spot where he hopes the turbine will be erected, Champney says as farmers, they are harvesters and harvesting wind is just one more way to feed his community.

“This is a great way to diversify the farm,” he said, arms akimbo, looking out over the mountains surrounding his land. “It's going to generate income for us. It's going to generate income for the town.”

"This is a great way to diversify the farm. It's going to generate income for us, it's going to generate income for the town." — Brian Champney, Dairy Air Farm Wind Project

The energy produced would go back into the Vermont power grid, providing renewable energy for the state.

Kim Champney says there are very few business opportunities in the area. She thinks, in addition to being a part of making Vermont more sustainable, sustainable energy projects bring revenue to the area.

“Through the contract, the town gets money towards the state education fund as well as the town itself gets an amount of money annually,” she said. “We're just trying to help. There are no businesses in this town.”

The Champney family stands outside their dairy, Dairy Air Farm in Holland. (From left to right, Brayden, age 10, Kim, Brody, age 7, Bryce, age 13 and Brian Champney.)
Credit Rebecca Sananes / VPR

But not everyone in Holland sees it that way.

In town-wide vote, 314 residents – a large majority – voted against the wind turbine on the Champney's property.

Thresher Hollis was one of them. He lives less than a mile from the Champney's farm and would be able to see the turbine from his house.

He says after 10 years of living on his Holland property, if the wind turbine goes up, he and his wife will move out.

“After coming back from the service, I wanted to come back to the Green Mountain State not the grey mountain state,” he said. “Meaning that all these grey industrial turbines are on the ridgelines instead of [just] the mountains.”

"I wanted to come back to the Green Mountain State not the grey mountain state, meaning that all these grey industrial turbines are on the ridgelines instead of [just] the mountains." — Hollis Thresher, Holland resident

Thresher is part of a group called Citizens for Responsible Energy Holland. The group says their goal is to find the right balance between sustainable energy projects and preserving the area's pastoral beauty.

“It's a group that got together to oppose any industrial power,” he described. “But we're definitely not against any logical means of renewable energy in Holland.”

Like others in the area, Thresher worries property values will go down with wind turbines obstructing the views of the Northeast Kingdom's rural landscape.

But in nearby Lowell, where wind turbines were installed several years ago, property value appraisers did not consider the wind turbines in their most recent assessment of the local property values.

They say there is not enough history or evidence to factor in the turbines at this time.

A permit application for the Dairy Air Wind project will likely be submitted to Vermont Public Service Board within the next couple weeks, after which point, the board will decide if the project is in the public good, and may move forward.