Portuguese firm's wind-speed tower request creates concern
ALEXANDRIA — Opponents are crying foul as a Portuguese company seeks to build a tower to measure wind speeds for its proposed Spruce Ridge Wind Farm in four towns near Newfound Lake and Mount Cardigan.
If Spruce Ridge is built on the northern and eastern edges of Newfound lake, and the Wild Meadows wind farm — proposed by a Spanish developer — is built near the south and eastern end, one of the state’s most beautiful lakes will become a “wind farm sandwich” with noisy, 500-foot lighted towers, opponents say.
“It’s a continuation of the march of the turbines,” said Jennifer Tuthill of Alexandria, a member of New Hampshire Wind Watch.
EDP Renewables of Portugal, which says it has developed more than 4,000 megawatts of wind power in the United States and has built wind power plants in Maine, met with Alexandria selectmen Feb. 25 to share information needed for the town to permit an 80-meter meteorological tower, said Derek B. Rieman, a project manager with EDP Renewables.
The company needs to build such towers in Alexandria and Groton to get data to determine the economic viability of the company’s proposed wind power project.
If permitted by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, Spruce Wind would be a $140 million, 60-megwawatt, 15-25 turbine project that would be built on a single landowner’s leased property which stretches across the towns of Groton, Alexandria, Hebron and Orange.
In December, the SEC was presented with a proposal from Iberdrola Renewables of Spain for Wild Meadows, a $150 million, 75.9-megawatt, 23-turbine project to be built on privately leased land in Danbury and Alexandria.
The SEC has returned the Wild Meadows application to Iberdrola for more information. Iberdrola officials, who say they still plan to pursue Wild Meadows, have “paused” their efforts on that project to work with the SEC and other state agencies on a request from the state fire marshal to suspend or remove the company’s license for its Groton Wind project, which went online in December 2012. Complainants say Iberdrola changed its plans for Groton Wind during construction without obtaining proper state permits.
EDP and Iberdrola would pay large sums of money to towns and landowners. But opponents say the “industrial wind” companies are taking advantage of area residents who have little say in the SEC’s current siting process.
“Is Spruce Ridge a needed project for the area, or is it needed to meet the state’s renewable energy credit requirements? No,” Tuthill said. “Is it wanted by citizens in the five towns surrounding the project? No.”
Opponents say the turbines proposed by Iberdrola and EDP would decrease property values and hurt the local tourism economy.
“From Mt. Cardigan itself, the turbine project will also be seen in its entirety and will additionally have turbines on property crossed by local hiking trails connecting to AMC trails,” she said.
The AMC and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests are opposed to Wild Meadows, but have not taken a position on Spruce Ridge, which is still in very early stages of development, Rieman said.
“We are cognizant that certain members of the community have negative feelings about wind power projects in the Newfound Lake and Cardigan Mountain area; however, it is my understanding that the majority of the state is favorable to renewable energy,” he said.
Rieman noted a UNH study that found most Granite State residents favor renewable energy development. Also, the state by statute needs renewable energy, he said, noting New Hampshire’s renewable portfolio standard requires that the state’s electricity supply come from renewable resources by 2025.
“We certainly respect the opinion of community members that have negative feelings about wind farm development as a whole; yet, we feel it is important that our company and proposed Spruce Ridge Wind Farm be judged on its own merits,” he said.
The company likely will use nearly 500-foot state-of-the-art turbines, he said.
“We believe this project has the necessary requirements to benefit New Hampshire with the $140 million investment, over 1,000 construction jobs, and several permanent positions. These towns will also receive property taxes for the existence of the project,” Rieman said.