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Wind farm opponents: Slow down

BRISTOL – The Newfound Lake Region Association has announced its support for one of at least three bills before the Legislature that could affect wind farm development in New Hampshire.

The association is backing a bill by Rep. Harold “Skip” Reilly Sr., R-Hill, and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Forrester. It calls for a moratorium on commercial wind projects until the state issues a new comprehensive energy plan.

The association’s decision is based on information presented by Dr. Benjamin Luce of Vermont’s Lyndon State College to New Hampshire Wind Watch, a 1,300-member group of residents opposed to two proposed wind projects in the Newfound Lake-Cardigan Mountain. Luce told the association that wind power will add little benefit to the state’s renewable energy future.

“The NLRA believes that the state should enact a moratorium on all pending and proposed commercial wind projects until a comprehensive energy plan can be prepared to guide state energy policy toward a more carbon-free, cost-effective, locally produced, and high-efficiency energy environment which does not sacrifice the quality of life that supports our economy,” the NLRA said in a letter to its constituents Thursday.

Another bill being studied in House and Senate committees would change the process for applying for a certificate for an energy facility. The House bill is sponsored primarily by Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare. The Senate version is sponsored by Forrester.

Forrester, of Meredith, said the bills are designed for all power projects in the state, but current proposed wind farms in the Newfound Lake/Cardigan Mountain area “will be addressed by this legislation.”

“We want to establish what we want New Hampshire to look like; we don’t want to be subject to the will of every wind farm company or whatever other kind of power facility plan that will come our way,” the Republican said.

“Let’s be intentional about it, not just let it happen,” she said.

The state’s Site Evaluation Committee, which has permitting control of energy projects, hasn’t had enough authority or broad enough criteria in deciding whether to allow a wind farm project, she said.

The committee granted a permit last year for a wind farm project that is now online in Groton, but recently denied a permit to a farm project in Antrim. Larger projects are being proposed by Spanish wind power giant Iberdrola and by Portugal’s EBD Renewables in the towns of Grafton, Groton, Alexandria, Danbury and Hebron.

Under present law, residents and their municipal governments have had little control – aside from giving input at SEC meetings – over wind power projects because the companies lease land from private landowners, and need only SEC approval.

The proposals have drawn criticism from local residents and groups, who worry about the negative impact of 40-story wind turbine towers on the views and the tourist economy in the Newfound Lake region.

Republican Sen. Bob Odell is sponsoring a third bill that would establish a new energy plan for the next 10 years.

Odell, who lives in Lempster, where Iberdrola built its first wind farm in the state, said the state’s current energy plan is now more than 10 years old, and was designed before wind power projects and other modern energy projects were prominent.

“We need to be ready for unanticipated challenges like wind farms,” he said.