Plans to build 24 wind turbines on the ridge lines above Plymouth hit some turbulence Monday, during the first day of hearings on its application.
The state Division of Historic Resources told wind energy giant Iberdrola Renewables to go back to the drawing board and fully analyze impacts of the project on historic properties in the village of Rumney and historic structures in West Plymouth.
A subcommittee of nine members who comprise the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee also heard that residents on the east side of Loon Lake in Plymouth will see between 19 and 24 turbines from their remote pond. Residents in the town of Rumney will see blades of the 400-foot high turbines towering above the rural fields along the Baker River.
Residents of Rumney who filed as intervenors peppered officials with questions about impacts from the project.
An opportunity for the public to comment on the project will be allowed at 2 p.m. on Thursday in the Walker Building at 21 S. Fruit St. in Concord.
Hearings are expected all week with the state facing a deadline of the end of December to give an up or down vote on whether to allow the project.
On March 26, the Spanish company, which operates the state’s only commercial wind farm in Lempster, filed an application for a certificate of site and facility for the project. The project is entirely within the town of Groton, but it would not be visible from Groton’s village.
It will be visible from Rumney and Interstate 93, and by motorists as they approach the traffic circle on Route 25 in Plymouth.
The turbines themselves would be on Fletcher and Tenney Mountain ridges at elevations from 1,850 feet to 2,300 feet. The proposal indicates the towers would be 256 feet tall with rotor blades extending 139 feet from their hub.
A public hearing this summer that was attended by about 150 Plymouth area residents found opposition primarily by property owners in neighboring Rumney, concerned about possible noise, health and visual impacts of the project.
Officials said there is no documentation to indicate that property values would decrease, and Edward J. Cherian, development director for the Northeast for Iberdrola, said there would be no need for the company to offer property value guarantees, as has been suggested by some analysts as a way to mitigate such projects.
In all, more than 250 structures within a 10-mile radius of the project may have a view of the project.
Dr. Hope Luhman, a consultant hired by the company to analyze historic resources, said she was “puzzled” by the decision by the Division of Historic Resources to find “substantial deficiencies” in its report and said it will take months but she is convinced some sort of resolution will be found.
But until then, no mitigation or actions can be suggested, which could be part of the conditions of a permit.
The local fire chiefs have also indicated that they would need additional equipment to protect the public and local property from a tower collapse or other fire or emergency at the remote site.
The applicant proposes upgrading 2.4 miles of roads on the proposed site and constructing 9.3 miles of new roads, with Groton Hollow Road in Rumney being the main access road.
An agreement has been struck between the town of Rumney and Iberdrola that would leave Groton Hollow Road as is and would prevent the company from running transmission lines down Quincy Road. Instead, two property owners on Route 25 have been approached to allow power lines to come out of their property, near the Quonset Hut, and connect with New Hampshire Electric Cooperative lines. They company is in discussion with Public Services Company of New Hampshire for an interconnection at its Beebe River Substation in Campton, 13 miles away, but that, too, requires more work.
The state has set up an expedited process for all renewable power projects, and the committee has nine months from the time of application to vote up or down on the project.
At the adjudicative hearing, the public is represented by Peter Roth, senior assistant attorney general. There are a number of parties who have been accepted as intervenors including the towns of Groton, Rumney and Plymouth and a group of residents in Rumney headed by resident James M. Buttolph and Cheryl Lewis.
On Tuesday the subcommittee will hear from officials about the company’s financial and managerial capabilities. Iberdrola has more than 1,000 wind turbines in operation in the United States.
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