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Newfound Lake area group calls for statewide wind-project moratorium

BRISTOL – The Newfound Lake Region Association is calling for a state moratorium on all proposed commercial wind power projects.

In a letter Monday, the association asked its members to contact state lawmakers requesting that a moratorium be declared until the 2002 New Hampshire Energy Plan is updated and the state’s Site Evaluation Committee review and approval criteria is revised.

“Because the 2002 New Hampshire Energy Plan has reached the end of its planning horizon, and because the Site Evaluation Committee criteria for (building) commercial power projects do not include consideration of the New Hampshire Energy Plan or adverse impacts on the local economy, (the NLRA) feel(s) it is in the best interests of the State of New Hampshire to establish a moratorium on all proposed commercial wind power projects,” the letter states.

A moratorium would ensure that issues such as determination of need, local economic cost-versus-benefit analysis, and short- and long-term environmental impacts are all properly addressed with critical planning and evaluation processes, the association said.

“While believing in the value of fossil-free energy, the NLRA board is concerned about the scale of the proposed project and its potential impacts on environmental and scenic values around Newfound Lake.”

Spanish wind-energy giant Iberdrola Renewables, which recently built a 24-turbine, $120 million 48-megawatt wind farm project in Groton, wants to build a second, 37-turbine wind-power project on ridgelines near Newfound Lake and Mount Cardigan in the towns of Alexandria, Grafton, and Danbury.

Meanwhile, EDP Renewables of Portugal is considering building 60-megawatt wind farm in the towns of Groton, Alexandria, and Hebron.

That project would build 15 to 25 turbines along ridgelines near the point where the three towns meet, just northwest of Newfound Lake and to the east of Mount Cardigan State Park.

Iberdrola has leased parts of 6,000 acres for its project from private landowners. EDPR has leased 3,000 acres owned by Maxam North America Inc., a worldwide manufacturer and distributor of commercial explosives. The Iberdrola project is just beginning the permitting process, and EDPR’s project is likely two to three years away, company officials said.

The projects would benefit the towns financially. Groton selectmen signed a 15-year-agreement with the Iberdrola that would pay the town $528,000 – roughly equivalent Groton’s most recent town budget – in the first year, and each of the project’s 24 wind turbines would net the town $22,000 in the years that follow.

But opposition has grown from residents who worry that the 40-story lighted towers would ruin the views and drop property values in the area while doing permanent damage to the area’s tourism-based businesses.

The association said it has been communicating with the primary organization opposing the Newfound/Cardigan area projects, New Hampshire Wind Watch, and said “NLRA expects to maintain an ongoing role in hosting expert speakers for public forums so that balanced and accurate information is readily available to all interested parties.”