GRAFTON – Two public tours have been scheduled for townspeople to visit and explore the Lempster Wind Power Project in New Hampshire before deciding if they want to accept a multinational company’s request to construct a turbine in their community.
Iberdrola Renewables, operating as Atlantic Wind LLC, formally asked for the state’s permission to erect three test towers – two in Windham and one in Grafton on land owned by New Hampshire–based Meadowsend Timberlands Limited. The towers could be a precursor to Windham County’s first commercial wind turbines.
Though Windham residents already have decided they’re adamantly against the proposal, the people of Grafton will be able to tour the company’s 12-turbine, 24-megawatt site in Lempster, N.H., on Wednesday, Oct. 3, and Thursday, Oct. 4, to see for themselves how they work.
Grafton Selectboard Chairman Al Sands said a tour involving only town officials was held on Tuesday, Aug. 28. He said he, the other members of the Selectboard, members of the Windham Regional Commission, Listers Hardy and Nancy Merrill and an official from Lempster met at the site and then had an hour-long meeting at Lempster Town Hall.
The point, Sands said, was to gain as much knowledge as possible about what it’s like to live near wind turbines.
“They were very forthright. They didn’t act like they had anything to hide. They were very open and very honest,” he said. “They seemed to think the whole process went fairly well and they said Iberdrola is a good neighbor.”
He said the Selectboard’s intent has always been to have the residents look at the site after the town’s boards have had the opportunity to do so and then schedule a public meeting, which will precede a town vote on whether to grant permission to build. As Searsburg and Sheffield already bear test towers, Sands said he would like representatives from the two towns to attend the public meeting to answer any questions and explain what it is like living near the structures.
Major concerns right now are that the turbines are too large and will create too much noise. Though he said he is not for or against the project, Sands mentioned he had plenty of preconceived notions about the turbines.
“I had painted this image in my head,” he said. “But I didn’t think the sound was anywhere near as loud as I thought it would be.”
He said many of the people with him in August made similar comments. Sands also mentioned the man who originally owned the land lives in a house and raises beef cattle a few hundred yards away from the turbines and has no complaints.
Another concern has been the potential of birds being killed by the blades, but Sands said the New Hampshire Audubon has set up monitoring there and has not found a problem.
He said he has seen no red flags yet and wants to collect more information on the matter. He added that the decision should be made by the townspeople, not any town boards.
As for Windham, the town sent a letter in August to the Vermont Public Service Board, which must issue a certificate of public good before a turbine can be built. In the letter Windham states that its town plan expressly forbids commercial wind power. The town has been fighting to block the plans to build the towers, saying the ban of commercial turbines includes test towers.
“(Building turbines does) not reflect our town’s position on development in this area of the town and is inconsistent with the views of our planning commission and Selectboard as well as the residents and property owners of Windham,” the letter reads.
“We believe the Public Service Board should give due consideration not only to our recommendations but also to our reasons,” it continues. “In this case, our town plan is clear and unambiguous, and our recommendations are based on clear and direct language.”
Sands, who said Grafton’s town plan says the town cannot reject the construction of anything based solely on aesthetics, said the Public Service Board does not have to adhere to any town plans and will make a decision based on what its members think is in the best interest of the state.
Iberdrola applied for the license under Section 248, which governs electric-generation facilities, and Section 246, which specifically addresses meterorological testing towers.
The company has said the 197-foot towers, which are not lit, are held in place by guy lines and have no foundations. They would also require “minimal clearing,” according to the company.