ALEXANDRIA — Ed Cherien, project manager for Iberdrola Renewables, faced a crowd of about 150 people at Alexandria Town Hall Tuesday night — most opponents of his company’s proposed Wild Meadows wind farm.
“I have been portrayed as a traitor,” the veteran leader of public hearings for the Spain-based wind power giant said. “I’m proud of the company I work for, just as people who work for Freudenberg in Bristol (owned by German and Japanese companies) are proud of the company they work for.”
“I grew up in New Hampshire, I have kids in school here,” he said. “I care about this state.”
Cherien has met with residents in Alexandria and surrounding towns several times in the past year about Wild Meadows wind farm, which would go on ridgelines visible to Newfound Lake and Cardigan Mountain. Tuesday night, he explained that the $150 million project had been reduced in size and scope to meet the concerns of residents.
“I think you’re doing a marvelous job of telling us what’s right for you and your company,” said resident Jan Connor. “You’re just not telling us what’s right for us.”
The initial proposal called for 37, 40-story towers in Alexandria, Danbury and Grafton. The new proposal includes 23 turbines, with a 31 percent reduction in the project’s footprint, Cherien said. The turbines planned for Grafton have been removed from the project proposal, which is still in its design stages, he said.
Before rising to speak, Cherien heard Bristol state Rep. Harold “Skip” Reilly from Bristol and County Commissioner Martha Richards speak against the project, both saying New Hampshire would not benefit from the electricity produced from Wild Meadows.
“There’s no benefit to the properties, there’s no benefit to tourism,” Richards said, citing a study done by a Vermont professor claiming the Granite State would benefit little in terms of electricity from the project or any new wind farm projects.
“The windmill power will be just going out into the grid somewhere,” she said.
Cherien said the project would generate lots of local jobs and benefit area towns substantially — Alexandria would be getting about $400,000 each year from the project. He disputed claims that the project would not help the state.
“There’s no such thing as a New Hampshire power pool. What happens to one New England state happens to all of us; the states are all interdependent on each other,” he said.
Concerns about damage to property values and the potential effects of wind towers on the beauty of the region — and on the tourist dollars that go with it — surfaced frequently.Kathy Pendleton of Mountain View Road said the proposal, which would put eight towers in Alexandria and 15 in Danbury, would result in several turbine towers directly in front of her home’s beautiful view.
“I pay a view tax for my view,” she said. “I’m not going to pay the view tax to view industrial turbines.”
Resident Bob Piehler agreed. Wind towers “are cute from 50 miles away, but they are not cute if they are a mile away,” he said.
Others challenged Iberdrola’s stance that there is support in the area for the project. One resident called for a town vote on the issue. In March, residents voted 3-to-1 against the proposal on a ballot question.