Members of the public sounded off on a proposed wind farm in Groton yesterday during a weeklong stretch of hearings before the state decides whether to approve the project next month.
The proposed 24-turbine farm, built by Spanish firm Iberdrola Renewables Inc., would be situated along the Fletcher and Tenney mountain ridges near Plymouth. In June, about 100 people showed up at a public hearing on the project at Plymouth State University.
The public attendance at yesterday’s Site Evaluation Committee hearing in Concord was much smaller, featuring a handful of speakers. The deadline for the 15-member committee to approve the project is Dec. 22.
Kevin Onnela, who owns the property in Lempster where Iberdrola built its first wind farm in New Hampshire, spoke in support of the Groton project.
“In our town, we have discovered that wind farms are good neighbors,” said Onnela, who leases his land to Iberdrola.
Gregg Pitman, the executive director of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association, spoke against the potential noise caused by the turbines on behalf of Cheryl and Rick Lewis, who own Baker River Campground about 1.25 miles from the proposed site of the 400-foot turbines.
“They are very concerned about the future of their campground that serves a lot of tent campers who come for the peace and quiet of the New Hampshire countryside,” he said. “How will the abutters be reimbursed should there be a detrimental effect upon their businesses?”
Cathy and Norm Sturgeon opened a general store in Lempster as the turbines were being built there. Cathy Sturgeon said daily business from the construction crew gave the store “the boost that it needed to get going in such a small town.”
“To this day, it still generates business for us,” Sturgeon said. “We have people come in on a weekly basis: They inquire about the wind turbines, they spend money in our store.”
The Mazur family of Rumney, which neighbors Groton, testified as intervenors in opposition to the project.
Lawrence Mazur had raised health concerns about Wind Turbine Syndrome, a term used by a New York pediatrician to describe a constellation of symptoms – like headaches and nausea – reported by residents living near a wind farm.
“It’s not clear in my mind whether this is a reasonable health issue of concern or not,” Mazur said. However, Mazur implored the board to further investigate the potential health effects of the turbines before approving the project.
Mazur’s wife, Christine, said that from the couple’s bedroom, they can see the mountain ridges on which the turbines are planned.
“We’re going to have a grand view of the project,” she said.
Pamela Hamel, the administrative assistant in Groton’s town office, said she supports the wind farm while acknowledging its local impact.
“Is it right for us to expect to use our cell phones, turn on our lights, drive our cars, boats or snowmobiles, cook our meals . . . and somehow not be impacted by the production of the energy that it takes to use those things?” she said.
Project manager Ed Cherian estimates the Groton turbines will produce, on average, enough energy for about 20,000 households.
Miles Sinclair, the chairman of the Groton selectmen, said the “vast majority” of people he’s spoken with in town support the project because they recognize the importance of breaking the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
“I think it’s been a very thorough process,” Sinclair said of the state hearings. “Maybe even overly so.”
The hearings resume today and may continue into next week after a late filing by Iberdrola proposing an alternate path for the power lines running from the wind farm to the PSNH power grid. The company received complaints that the original proposal ran too close to a road.
Additionally, the state Division of Historical Resources has rejected a submission from Iberdrola that attempted to address the project’s impact on the historical aspects of the community. The submission lacked sufficient information, and a request sent to Iberdrola for a site visit was not returned, state officials said.
Cherian said he’s confident the company will be able to satisfy the Division of Historical Resources’s concerns.
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