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Critics fault Environment NH's report on wind farm plans

Union Leader Correspondent

January 26. 2014 7:19PM

ALEXANDRIA — A report issued by Environment New Hampshire on the potential for wind power development in the state has drawn criticism for listing "fossil fuel interests" as the primary opponents to new wind power projects, rather than opposition from residents and local groups.

The report, "Wind Energy for a Cleaner America II," was issued last week as part of a media promotion campaign. It focuses on the need for renewable energy to meet the state's power needs in the future. Environment New Hampshire Research and Policy Center is a nonprofit group dedicated to protecting air, water and open spaces.

But residents and groups who favor a moratorium on new energy projects and who oppose the proposed Wild Meadows Wind Farm project proposal in the scenic, tourism-dependent areas around Newfound Lake and Cardigan Mountain, say the report doesn't address Granite Staters' priorities and needs.

Members of New Hampshire Wind Watch, a group that opposes Iberdrola Renewables' proposed Wild Meadows Wind Farm, said that the report addresses other energy industries nationally, and in doing so ignores the will and feelings of area residents.

The report speaks most directly to problems with fossil fuels.

"Despite the clear benefits of wind and widespread bipartisan support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, fossil fuel interests and their political allies have vigorously opposed these initiatives," the EnvironmentNH report states.

The report finds that New Hampshire's wind energy avoids more than 157,267 metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution, the equivalent of taking 32,764 cars off the road, while it also saves 70,265,000 gallons of water per year, enough to meet the needs of 2,567 people.

But in illustrating its points, the report notes government-produced statistics similar to those used by Benjamin Luce of Lyndon State University in his 2012 report in which he said that New Hampshire would reap little benefit from wind power production, even with wind towers on ridgelines throughout the state.

The statistics in both reports show New Hampshire and Vermont as being among the states with the least onshore wind potential in the country.

In New Hampshire, "wind fails the cost-benefit test," Wind Watch officials said. "Wind is a high-cost form of intermittent energy that can only deliver power around 30 percent of the time, generally when the grid least needs it seasonally. It will never replace a single fossil fuel or nuclear plant anywhere in New England." The EnvironmentNH report does not address the complaints of improper actions at Iberdrola Renewable's Groton Wind power plant, which are being investigated by the state attorney general's and the fire marshal's offices, nor does it speak to the concerns of Newfound Lake/Cardigan Mountain region residents about the potential for declining property values and loss of tourism dollars if Iberdrola's Wind Farm is permitted.

The report doesn't address Senate Bill 99, which questions the state's authority for new power projects, the Site Evaluation Committee, to see if the committee's staffing and procedures are adequate to site new projects such as Wild Meadows.

And, opponents say, the report doesn't address the concerns of residents in the two towns involved in Wild Meadows. Alexandria and Danbury have gone on record in the past month opposing the 23-turbine project, which calls for building 492-foot towers above mountain vistas in an area dependent on tourism dollars.

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