Latest Groton wind farm fight: Snow plowing
GROTON – The Attorney General and local residents are protesting an attempt by Groton Wind, LLC to avoid having to plow the roads leading to its 24 ridge-line wind turbines during winter months.
And Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth said Monday he wants the company to move its warehouse-sized operations and maintenance building at the top of Groton Hollow Road across the road from where it sits, despite the contention by Groton Wind and its parent company, Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, that the company could not build on that site.
The company said when it built the wind farm three years ago, it changed the location of the "O&M" building to avoid problems it found on the planned site. The company said it cleared the change in plans with the state's Department of Environmental Services.
But Roth says the company needed to tell all the necessary state agencies about the change in plans, not just DES.
"They need to move the building to where it was supposed to be, it's a violation of their operating certificate if they don't," Roth said.
The SEC has threatened to pull the plant's operation license because of a long list of violations found by state inspectors. Many of the issues have apparently been solved by an agreement announced last week between the state Fire Marshal and Groton Wind, though the agreement has yet to be approved by the SEC.
Issues still remain, Roth said, that must be addressed, such as the location of the operations building and access and maintenance to the turbine roads.
The certificate and operating agreement with the town required Groton Wind to construct and maintain roads at its facility "that allow for year-round access to each wind turbine at a level that permits passage and turnaround of emergency response vehicles."
But in a motion filed last week with the state's Site Evaluation Committee, Groton Wind and Iberdrola Renewables officials said they would rather have access to the towers in the winter via snow machine.
A study done by Iberdrola Revewables found that "plowing on steep grade roads creates a safety concern, increases concentration of spring melt runoff and would be extremely costly." Iberdrola also states that "turbine access during the winter months will be provided by a snow cat or similar vehicle."
Iberdrola's plan "presents the safest and most environmentally sound way to maintain the turbine roads," the company said in its filing.
Mark Watson, who lives 1½ miles from the east turbines, is an "intervenor" in the SEC's ongoing investigation into complaints at the plant. He says the company is trying to save money by not plowing. In a letter to the SEC, Watson said he was "disappointed Iberdrola would place financial concern before the safety of residents of surrounding communities."
The neighboring town of Rumney has also expressed concern to the town and the state about not being able to access the towers in winter if an emergency occurs.
"The company hasn't yet presented an emergency response plan, as they required to," Roth said, who is representing the public in this case.
"The certificate established that the roads should be open and accessible at all times," he said. "The company needs to stick to its certificate."
Iberdrola responded to the protests late Monday afternoon.
"With all due respect, we don’t feel the place to settle these issues is in the media. There’s a process in place and we’re working very hard within that process to reasonably and responsibly satisfy all concerned parties. Safety is our top priority for our employees, neighbors and the general public," said Art Sasse, Iberdrola's director of communications and brand.