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December 17. 2013 9:09PM

Firm applies to build wind turbines in Danbury, Alexandria that could power 30,000 homes

ALEXANDRIA — Iberdrola Renewables, the Spanish energy company headquartered in Portland, Ore., has formally submitted an application to the Site Evaluation Committee to build the Wild Meadows Wind Farm in Danbury and Alexandria, promising a huge tax-dollar windfall to both towns.

Wild Meadows, a 75.9 megawatt installation, would feature 23 wind turbines — 15 in Danbury and eight in Alexandria — and company officials say it will produce enough clean energy to power about 30,000 homes each year and 90,000 homes at peak production, with the energy going to the regional power grid.

Estimated economic benefits include first-year payments of $695,000 to Danbury, $370,000 to Alexandria, up to $565,000 for New Hampshire's general revenue fund and $280,000 to local landowners.  Ongoing annual payments to the towns would start at about $545,000 to Danbury and $325,000 to Alexandria, with 2.5 percent annual increases.

The original Wild Meadows plan included the town of Grafton, but company officials said they decided not to pursue construction in that town after hearing public input on the proposal.

Residents in the Newfound Lake area opposed to the project say by submitting the plan, Iberdrola officials are ignoring overwhelming votes in opposition to the project at town meetings in March in the two towns.

They complain that Iberdrola is already facing questions about its plant in Groton — which has towers visible from parts of Newfound Lake — regarding fire safety and alleged violations of its Site Evaluation Committee certificate. The Groton plant went online a year ago this month.

"Newfound Lake communities have made it very clear to Iberdrola that yet another Newfound Region wind facility is not wanted," said New Hampshire Wind Watch leaders in a statement. "This has been clearly and overwhelmingly reflected in town votes and town meetings on this subject."

If approved, the Wild Meadows Wind Farm would become the company's third wind power project in the state, following wind farms in Lempster and Groton that went online in 2008 and 2012 respectively.

Iberdrola officials said they submitted the application "after considerable input" from local communities and consultation with state agencies, which led to significant changes in the project's proposed configuration."

"The company has been studying and evaluating the project since 2009, conducting a wide variety of wildlife, environmental, and technical studies, in consultation with New Hampshire state agencies and local experts," company officials said.

Company officials cite a University of New Hampshire study that estimates the construction phase would create the full-time equivalent of 404 direct and secondary jobs, resulting in $21.77 million in earnings and $42.35 million in increased economic activity.

During the operations phase, the project would create 13 full-time equivalent jobs, $770,000 in annual income and $2.31 million of increased economic activity every year for the life of the project.

The SEC review process for the project is expected to last about one year.

To build its wind farms, the company secures leases with private landowners in the area, who are paid undisclosed amounts for use of their lands. In its press release on the subject, Iberdrola officials quote Alexandria landowner Fred Platts, whose family confirmed Tuesday that he made this statement: "Tax benefits for residents and increased yield-per-acre for loggers will be a huge help to those of us who have farmed or logged our land for generations. This is about protecting the small towns of the Lakes Region and preserving our rural way of life."

Opponents say Iberdrola's record with its 24-turbine, 48-megawatt wind farm in Groton is still in question, and say the majority of residents oppose Wild Meadows.

The SEC will announce hearings in January on complaints from residents in Groton that the company has not lived up to its agreements. The company says it has met the SEC's requirements in Groton.

"Given the possible suspension and or revocation of Iberdrola's existing Newfound Region's wind plant's operational certificate for several alleged safety violations, and given the tremendously negative response to their proposed second industrial installation in the area, we are astounded that they have elected to file. Iberdrola is going back on its word that they would not try to site here if the people did not want them."

dseufert@newstote.com


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