In most towns, the votes last week were strongly against wind power projects. A few votes were closer, especially in Groton, which already has a wind farm and is being approached with a proposal for testing systems for another.
The warrant articles followed two proposals from wind farm companies - Iberdrola Renewables of Spain and EBD Renewables of Portugal - for wind farms along ridgelines near Newfound Lake and in the Cardigan Mountain region. Iberdrola went online with its third wind farm in the state in December in Groton, which is just north of the Newfound Lake area.
If permitted by the state's Site Evaluation Committee, the two companies would erect as many as 62 lighted, 40-story wind turbines on privately leased land in Groton, Grafton, Alexandria and Hebron.
The proposals have drawn heavy opposition from residents who fear the wind towers will ruin the scenic views in the heavily tourist-dependent area and will decrease property values. There are also questions about who will pay the cost of disassembling the towers after their projected life. Iberdrola's contract in Groton includes funding for decommissioning its towers.
Two other Newfound lake towns, Bristol and Bridgewater, have no wind farms proposed, but selectmen in both towns have recently come out against Iberdrola's proposed Wild Meadow Wind Project in Alexandria, Danbury and Grafton. The project will soon go to the SEC for a year-long permitting study.
Bristol and Bridgewater have land on Newfound Lake, and many Bridgewater residents are on the east side of the lake, directly across from the area in which the companies plan to build wind towers.
Here is how the towns voted (there were no related articles in Danbury or Hebron):
--Groton: Residents narrowly defeated an article at Saturday's Town Meeting to require selectmen and/or the planning board to suspend all negotiations and/or planning relative to commercial wind turbines until the state updates its Energy Master Plan. An amendment to the article passed, but the article ultimately failed when it came to a vote, according to Selectman Miles Sinclair. The vote was 28-21.
But by a vote of 25-22, voters approved an article to require all wind energy facilities that may come to be located in the town to post security in the form of cash or bond, prior to initiating construction, to cover the costs of removing all of the facility upon ceasing operations.
--Alexandria: An article passed, 273-101, for this resolution: "Whereas development of or more large scale wind farms along the mountain ridge lines visible from town will negatively impact the town's rural nature and scenic beauty, now be it resolved that the town strongly opposes the development of large wind turbines along the mountain ridge lines visible from the town of Alexandria."
A second article passed, 331-41, that would require all wind energy facilities to post security in the form of cash or bond, prior to initiating construction, to cover the costs of removing all of the wind farm facility upon ceasing operations.
--Grafton: An article passed, 394-134, requiring that wind farm companies with proposals provide a bond or other security to ensure the system will be safely dismantled at the end of its life. The article also set the total installed height of towers to no greater than 250 feet above ground.
A second article asked voters to advise the selectmen to reject the proposed Wild Meadow Wind Project. That passed, 334 to 190.
-- Bridgewater: By voice vote, the town passed an article regarding assurance that wind farm companies would fully pay the cost of removing their facilities. A second article also passed by voice vote asking the selectmen to petition the Site Evaluation Committee if a wind energy site application is filed with the SEC affecting the view shed of Newfound Lake and/or Bridgewater, as seen from any point in town.
Iberdrola Project Manager Ed Cherien said support will likely grow as people learn more about the projects.
"This is a long process - as it was for (Iberdrola's wind farms in) Lempster and Groton - of education, feedback, and discussion. There is clearly a wide range of viewpoints and some misinformation, but we look forward to continuing to engage the towns in discussions.
"It's premature to vote on a plan or proposal that has not been formally made," he said.
New Hampshire WindWatch, an 1,800-member group opposing new wind power projects in the area, disagrees.
"Residents around the Newfound Region have recently spoken. They came together and voted against wind energy power plants on our mountain tops," said Lori Lerner, the group's president.
"Iberdrola Renewables knows where the community now stands, from the official voting records in the three towns. In November, Iberdrola stated at three separate meetings in three separate towns that they would not proceed if the townspeople were not in favor of their project. Will they live up to their words and respect the people's voice?"