Days after Danbury joined Alexandria in firmly rejecting the proposed Wild Meadows Wind Farm project, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has filed a petition to suspend consideration of the project until the state comes up with new rules for siting energy projects.
Atlantic Wind, LLC and its parent company, Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, are seeking approval from the state's Site Evaluation Committee for the 75.9-megawatt, 23-turbine Wild Meadows project. Company officials say it will produce enough energy to power 30,000 average homes each year and 90,000 homes at peak production.
Iberdrola officials, who filed their application for the project last month, have promised economic benefits that include first-year payments of $695,000 to the town of Danbury, $370,000 to the town of Alexandria, up to $565,000 for New Hampshire's general revenue fund and $280,000 to local landowners.
The Forest Society on Friday made public its petition to suspend consideration of the facility. It cites SB 99, a bill passed last year mandating a study of the SEC and its process of siting of energy facilities. Among the tasks required of the state Office of Energy and Planning study is "to better ensure that the review of energy facility applications serves the public good."
The bill also required the SEC to adopt administrative rules no later than Jan. 1, 2015, that include specific criteria to be applied in determining if the requirements of state law have been met by applicants. It also requires the SEC to give "due consideration" to the views of the town governing bodies.
The society's petition states that Wild Meadows does not serve the public good of the Newfound Lake-Cardingan Mountain area or of the state.
"Iberdrola has signed a fifteen-year contract under which all of the energy generated by the Wild Meadows Wind Project will be sold to Massachusetts utilities, and all or most will be used to satisfy the requirements of the Renewable Portfolio Standard in Massachusetts, not New Hampshire," it states. "... New Hampshire will bear all of the environmental, economic, and other impacts of the Wild Meadows Wind Project, primarily in Danbury, Alexandria, and the Newfound Lake Region ... suspending consideration of the Wild Meadows Wind Project until after the SB 99 process is complete would be in the public interest."
Jane Difley, president of the Forest Society, said the project is a threat to the state. "New Hampshire's landscapes are a critical part of our state identity and economy, and our permitting processes are inadequate," she said.
"Our board of trustees believes that there is a role for wind power in the state's energy future, but that we should not be permitting new large-scale wind projects before establishing siting guidelines as well as other changes to the way the SEC handles applications and accommodates community values and input."
Iberdrola officials said they need time to review the society's petition.
"We just received the motion at the end of the week, and once we've had a chance to thoroughly review, we will respond accordingly," said Iberdrola's Paul Copleman.
Jack Savage, the forest society's vice president for communications and outreach, said the SEC can't properly handle projects coming before it now. A Portuguese developer, for instance, has notified towns in the region that it is considering building a second wind farm near Newfound Lake.
"Right now, it's open season on New Hampshire landscapes for wind proposals," Savage said.
The Wild Meadows Legal Fund, a group of landowners in the Newfound Lake that formed to oppose Wild Meadows, said the petition "makes great sense." The fund filed a similar motion, said member Bill Everett of Hebron.
"The Forest Society motions, together with those filed by the Appalachian Mountain Club, New Hampshire Wind Watch, and the Wild Meadows Legal Fund this week, are further examples of the growing opposition to the proposed project by a broad group of conservation and citizen groups in the Newfound Lake area."