By MIKE FAHER / Reformer Staff

POSTED:   11/20/2013 03:00:00 AM EST

TOWNSHEND — Though Windham County does not yet host any commercial-size turbines, windpower continues to be a hot topic.

That’s why Vermonters for a Clean Environment chose Townshend to host the first of three public forums on the possible impacts of large-scale windmills.

The session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Townshend United Church of Christ on the Townshend Common.

“We’re providing education about some of the issues that are of concern to people who live in areas where there are wind projects proposed,” said Annette Smith, executive director of the Danby-based organization.

“This is going to focus on noise, which is one of the big issues,” said Smith, who has been a vocal opponent of turbine development. “I spend most of my time dealing with noise issues.”

Wind giant Iberdrola Renewables last year received state permission to erect three meteorological-testing towers on privately-owned land in the towns of Windham and Grafton.

Those towers, depending on the weather data they generate, could lay the groundwork for Iberdrola to seek permission to build turbines in that area. A company spokesman has said no decision is expected until next year.

But even the test towers have spurred controversy, particularly in Windham, which prohibits commercial-scale wind turbines in its town plan.

Iberdrola has participated in some local windpower forums; one meeting last year in Windham featured company representatives alongside opponents including Smith.

But the Iberdrola won’t be present at Friday’s session, and that’s by design.

“I found it to be a pretty useless format,” Smith said of the pro-and-con setup of some previous meetings. “You couldn’t really zero in on anything.”

Instead, she says, “we’re going to bring some focus to this.”

By that, Smith means an emphasis on what turbine opponents believe are the “noise and health effects of industrial wind.”

The session will feature Stephen Ambrose, a Maine-based civil engineer who has testified before Vermont legislative committees regarding noise generated by turbines.

“He speaks in layperson terms, and he does it in a way that you can understand,” Smith said. “He can speak specifically to what the health effects are, because he has experienced them himself.”

Also expected to attend are residents who live near Groton Wind Farm in New Hampshire and Hoosac Wind Project in Massachusetts. Both were developed by Iberdrola.

“We’ve got a lot of cross-pollination with the various states going on,” Smith said.

The meeting will be hosted by state Sen. Peter Galbraith, a Townshend-based Democrat who has voiced opposition to large-scale turbine development.

Organizers said the meeting will include discussion of the Windham-Grafton test towers. Maps showing where those towers have been erected — along with potential turbine sites — will be distributed.

Vermonters for a Clean Environment plans two more windpower forums, though a location has not been finalized. The January session will focus on property values.

Mike Faher can be reached at or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.