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New Hampshire wind-farm developer Iberdrola facing lawsuit in New York over wind noise

ALEXANDRIA – As opponents of Iberdrola Renewables’ proposed wind-farm project in three Newfound-area towns were planning strategies last month, a group of 60 residents in three upstate New York towns filed suit against Iberdrola, claiming the noise from the wind farm there is making them ill and forcing them to leave their homes.

Iberdrola, the Spain-based company that is the second-largest wind-energy operator in America, had the support of many residents in rural Herkimer County, N.Y., when it brought its 37-tower, $200 million Hardscrabble Wind Power Project online in 2011, according to reports.

But in a 49-page complaint filed last month, the plaintiffs, who live within a mile or two of the wind farm in Fairfield, Middleville, and Norway, N.Y., are charging the Iberdrola companies with negligence, private nuisance, trespass and product liability violations for building the project without adequately considering the impact on residents.

Plaintiffs said the 476-foot turbines are bigger and noisier than developers promised residents. As a result, they say, residents near the wind farm are dealing with loud noise each day.

In the complaint, many said the noise is causing headaches and added stress. Some claimed the project has caused sediment in their drinking water. One plaintiff said the cows at her dairy farm have been less productive since the turbines began turning. Others claim they can’t sleep with the noise.

Bernadette Baylor and Richard Baylor Jr., two of the plaintiffs, said Wednesday that the project has prevented them from selling their house. Because of the turbines’ noise, they abandoned their home and were forced to file for bankruptcy, Bernadette Baylor said.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek punitive damages. “(Iberdrola officials) acted willfully, recklessly, were grossly negligent, and/or acted with a conscious disregard,” the plaintiffs stated in court documents.

Iberdrola USA, an affiliate of Iberdrola Renewables, is named as the defendant in the suit along with other Iberdrola companies and affiliates.

Some residents in Grafton, Danbury, and Alexandria have publicly expressed support for Iberdrola Renewables’ Wild Meadows Wind Power Project, while vocal opponents formed the Newfound Lake Wind Watch group to actively fight it. Opponents say the towers on the ridgelines will ruin the scenic beauty of Newfound Lake and the Mount Cardigan State Park, as well as drop land values and reduce tourism dollars in the area.

The company has leased the 600 acres it needs for the project from landowners, but the state’s permitting process has not started yet and may take a year to complete. The company does not need permits from the towns.

Company officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In previous meetings with residents of the three towns, Iberdrola Renewables project manager Ed Cherian said the impacts on residents from the Wild Meadows project would be minimal. The company cites independent studies concluding there should be no substantial noise problem from wind power turbines, and Cherian said the company’s other wind-farm projects across the country have been received well by residents.