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Advocates voice optimism for New Hampshire’s wind power potential

New Hampshire has the potential to have its wind industry grow fivefold during 2012, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

State wind production is currently 26 megawatts, with projects that will produce an additional 147 megawatts under construction, the association says.

The trend to think green and employ more renewable energies in the state is growing, said Tim Drew, a public information official in the state’s Department of Environmental Services.

“It (wind) has been more popular in the state since Lempster came in … it spurred interest,” said Drew. “Of course, there’s a wind map, and there’s only so many areas that make (wind farms) feasible. The map shows that, for example, Mount Washington, of course, has strong winds. Lempster and Antrim are enough to make it economically feasible coming from the west.

“Roughly speaking,” added Drew, “there’s been a flurry of activity on renewable energy and wind.”

The Lempster Wind Power Project’s 12 turbines produce enough energy (up to 24 megawatts) to power 10,000 homes and offset the carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to 5,700 cars annually. Each turbine tower stands 256 feet tall, supporting a 139-foot turbine blade, making the total height 395 feet when the blade is vertical to the ground. Lempster is owned by the Iberdrola Renewables company.

Public Service of New Hampshire buys all of Lempster’s power, which is then resold to the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative.

Granite Reliable Power Windpark in Coos County was purchased by Brookfield Renewable Energy in February 2011. It is the only New England wind farm Brookfield owns, with two others under construction in California, according to its website. According to the site, Brookfield hopes to boost its wind portfolio to have an installed capacity of more than 600 megawatts by the end of 2012. Granite Reliable has a stated output of 99 megawatts.

In a website posting on March 28, Brookfield said, “The United States is now the world’s second-largest wind market and is estimated to have reached 47,000 MW (megawatts) of installed capacity by the end of 2011, with another 10,000 MW expected online in 2012.”

Also expressing an interest in constructing more wind farms in the state is Antrim Wind Energy LLC Project Manager John Soininen.

“I foresee more in the future. New Hampshire is an interesting place, with a lot of conserved land,” said Soininen. “There is a limited number of locations where you can find property with sufficient wind resource in proximity to power, but I think it is likely to be more there.

The Antrim wind farm is still in the permitting process.”

Soininen does not expect the Antrim project to break ground until about 2014. The group is not pursuing any other development in the state, he said.

One of the state’s first wind farms, Loranger Power Generation in Berlin, was commissioned in 2006. It is capable of producing about 1.35 megawatts of power.

The power generated at Loranger comes from three turbines and is returned to the state’s power grid by Public Service of New Hampshire.

About 12 percent of the state’s power is derived from renewable energy resources, according to the PSNH website. In contrast, it says, the majority of the state’s electricity is produced by fossil fuel (47 percent) and nuclear power (41 percent).

The first wind turbines in the United States were installed on land at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, dedicated on April 24, 1981.

Each tower, built by US Windpower, stood 60 feet tall and used a three-blade fiberglass propeller 20 feet wide to generate power. The project failed, and the company declared bankruptcy in 1996.