WINDHAM – An international wind-power developer won’t decide this year whether a ridgeline in Windham and Grafton is suitable for commercial turbines.
A representative of Iberdrola Renewables, which has erected testing towers in the two towns, said it will be 2014 – at the earliest – before the company has enough weather data to either pursue or abandon a potential wind project here.
“We like to have a year or two of data,” Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman said.
Iberdrola, operating locally as Atlantic Wind LLC, last summer announced plans to build two meteorological-test (MET) towers in Windham and another in Grafton.
Those towers, erected on land owned by Meadowsend Timberland Limited, could be a precursor to Windham County’s first commercial wind farm.
Though Iberdrola representatives have stressed that they have no idea whether the area can support wind turbines, the MET towers nonetheless generated controversy.
There was organized citizen opposition in Grafton, where the Selectboard held public forums but did not formally take a position on the project.
It was a different story in Windham, where the Selectboard and planning commission argued that the state Public Service Board should deny permission to build MET towers because the town plan bans industrial wind power.
The state Department of Public Service – which is separate from the Public Service Board – sided with Windham. But the state
board nonetheless granted a certificate of public good for three MET towers late last year.
An Iberdrola executive previously had said the company might have gathered sufficient weather data sometime in 2013. But Copleman now says that won’t be the case.
“We got them up in early April, so it will be a while,” he said.
Copleman added that, “had they gone up earlier, there would have been several seasons of data,” including winter.
At this point, he said, the towers are operating but have not produced enough meaningful, long-term data on which Iberdrola can base its decision.
“We monitor all our MET towers’ data output on a regular basis, in part to learn about the performance of the wind in regular intervals but also to confirm the MET tower equipment is recording and sending us data,” Copleman said.
He also said there had been no complications during installation of the towers. Atlantic Wind had argued that the MET towers would be minimally obtrusive, as they stand less than 200 feet tall, are held in place by guy lines, require no foundations and are not lit.
“There’s no heavy equipment,” Copleman said. “The parts and equipment come in on a pickup truck.”
If the company at some point pursues a turbine project on the ridge, Atlantic Wind would have to again seek state permits.
Windham County state Sen. Peter Galbraith, a Townshend Democrat, in April introduced a bill that would block such a project. The legislation says the Public Service Board could approve wind turbines in Windham only if the structures comply with the town plan.
That bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. But it went no further before the 2013 legislative session ended in May.
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