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Wind power company gets chilly reception in Groton

GROTON – Two representatives for a Portuguese wind power company who came to the planning board Wednesday night for a hearing on their proposed meteorological tower found a group of 60 people from area towns, most of whom opposed new wind farm development.

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

The company recently received approval from the town’s zoning board to build a nearly 200-foot-tall meteorological tower in Groton in order to test the winds. If tests go well, EDP Project Manager Jeffrey Nemeth said, the company would pursue its planned Spruce Ridge Wind Farm.

Groton already has a wind tower recently built by Iberdrola Renewables, which has leased parts of 6,000 acres for its 24-tower project from private landowners in town. That project goes online this month.

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 planning board was reviewing the site plan for the proposed meteorological tower, and Nemeth and a company attorney told the board that they had come to discuss the meteorological tower, not the proposed wind-power project.

The crowd collectively groaned at that suggestion.

Sherry Nelson, a planning board alternate, rejected that suggestion. The planning board, she said, was responsible for making sure projects don’t lead to negative outcomes, and Groton isn’t sure yet if the current wind farm is going to be beneficial to the town.

“Our town has just seen a wind farm built and we don’t know what to expect in the first year,” she said to loud applause. “We’ve got to hold our horses and see how this one goes.”

Looking at Nemeth, Nelson said, “your timing is wrong, your tower is too early.”

As the public session of the meeting continued, with audience speakers opposing the tower and wind farm, one resident said, “I feel the conquistadors have returned, and I think it’s time to send them back.”