Grafton – A meeting meant to educate residents on a proposed Wild Meadow Road wind farm instead drew wind farm opponents, who had the opportunity to confer with town and state officials about the project’s pros and cons.
The informational meeting was put together by Susan Frost, a retired teacher who lives on the road closest to the proposed site of the wind farm. Iberdrola Renewables, which has two farms in New Hampshire, has been planning a 37-turbine project on land in Grafton as well as Alexandria, N.H., and Danbury, N.H. A separate farm operated by another company went online on Dec. 28 in Groton, N.H.
“We are faced with what I call a turning point in our history,” Frost said at the beginning of yesterday’s meeting. “We need to learn as much as we can.”
However, most of the 20 people in attendance had already done their share of learning – testimonies from environmental groups and results of wind-turbine studies were bandied about, and the presentations often branched off into in-depth discussions about tax credits, state statutes and the movement of electricity between state lines.
Several basic issues, though, such as a fear of declining property values, concerns about the aesthetic impact of turbines proposed to be 472 feet high and worries that the town doesn’t really have a say in whether the project moves forward, continually pushed to the forefront of the conversation.
“We’ve been living it every day since the project was announced,” said Sean Frost, who, unlike his mother, said his mind is firmly made up. “If the people don’t have a voice in an issue of this magnitude, that’s a problem.”
Frost’s comments were directed toward Rep. Chuck Townsend, D-Canaan, who serves as the vice chairman of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee and spoke at yesterday’s meeting. Though Townsend’s list of positives regarding the wind farm caused some disagreement, he said he was not a full-on proponent of the project.
He said that he would consider alternatives, such legislation proposed by Rep. Harold Reilly, R-Grafton, which calls for a moratorium on all wind power construction until the state upgrades its energy plan.
According to Selectman David Rienzo, an attorney in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, the state’s Site Evaluation Committee can award Iberdrola a permit eight months after it is filed. In the meantime, the committee – which handles large-scale energy projects – will go through a fact-finding process and hold hearings, during which it will listen to testimonies from those on both sides of the issue.
Iberdrola hasn’t yet filed for a permit. However, Rienzo said, the committee virtually always grants permits, though often with a long list of conditions the company has to follow.
Cindy Kudlik, who said she has been opposed to the farm from when it was first announced in November, has been checking the Site Evaluation Committee’s web site daily to see if Iberdrola has filed its permit.
“I see no positive to it whatsoever, honestly,” she said of the farm.
There are no more informational meetings like yesterday’s scheduled. However, on Jan. 31, the Groton Selectboard will host a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. at its town offices alongside the Grafton, Alexandria, and Danbury selectboards, to discuss the wind farm project.
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