Web turbines stand hundreds of feet in the air, as tall as a 40-story building from the base to the end of the massive spinning blades.
The turbines are popping up along New Hampshire’s ridge line, in places such as Groton and Lempster. Smaller farms are located across the state and another may be in the pipeline.
While they generate an alternative, green source of power, they also generate plenty of fierce debate.
“We wind up incurring all of the pain associated with these projects and we don’t get the benefits of them,” said Peter Silbermann, a director of New Hampshire Wind Watch, an organization fighting against future wind farms.
Silbermann worries that Iberdrola Renewables, the company behind the Lempster and Groton farms, may also try to build one in communities near Newfound Lake.
There is no official proposal, but plans could include 37 turbines on private land in Alexandria, Grafton and Danbury.
The turbines would be in Silbermann’s line of sight from his lakefront Bridgewater home.
A retired environmental engineer, Silbermann spent his career proposing environmentally-sensitive projects, so at first he was conflicted.
After a few months of research, he decided he is opposed to wind farms.
He said that besides scarring the view and the land, he believes they eventually lower property values. He adds that, with wind being variable, wind farms just don’t run enough to make a difference.
“Not a single fossil-fuel plant has been eliminated as a result of wind power,” Silvermann said.
“We spend a lot of money to make sure we understand if this will fit, and it does fit,” said Paul Copleman, who works for Iberdrola Renewables.
Copleman said the electric grid is designed to balance energy and accommodate for changes in output from wind sources.
The company said that the wind farm in Groton can power 20,000 homes over the course of a year.
But opponents said that’s another issue because the power doesn’t always stay local: it is sold throughout New England.
“Any business that is coming into New Hampshire, I think, wants to be able to sell its product beyond the borders of New Hampshire,” said Copleman.
Iberdrola Renewables said the positive economic impact on local towns and the state is undeniable.
The company points to the Groton farm, which it said was a $100 million investment in New Hampshire and that 300 jobs were created during construction.
As for a new farm in the Newfound Lake area, the company said for right now, it’s only an idea.
Iberdrola Renewables said it understands concerns, but the process would be transparent and thorough, just like it was in Groton.
“We were here talking to people and answering questions for years before a shovel broke earth here,” said Groton Selectman Miles Sinclair. “If people were upset about it, my believe was my phone would have been ringing off the hook, and it was not.”
Sinclair supports wind farms and said the one in his town is a financial benefit.
“They pay us beginning the first year of the commercial operations, which began Jan. 1, $528,000 per year. To put that into perspective, last year’s budget was $546, so it almost fully funds the town operations,” said Sinclair.
But if you travel just 2 miles away to Rumney, Carl Spring said he can’t find a single perk.
Spring lives on the access road to Groton’s wind farm and less than a half-mile from some of the turbines.
Along with having to look at them, Spring said you have to hear them, too.
“The whoosh, or a lot of times it will sound like a jet engine, and there’s days when it sounds like the ball in the roulette wheel is going around, you hear a cycling noise like that as well,” he said.
Spring is one of several Rumney residents opposed to the Groton farm who is still vocal, citing everything from dissatisfaction with the location of maintenance buildings to damage to wells during blasting.
Spring said fighting a big corporation was nearly impossible.
“They basically come into town, small communities, they just overwhelm you and overrun you before you ever know what hit you,” he said.
Under New Hampshire law, the state’s site evaluation review committee has the power to approve or deny energy projects.
That’s why Silbermann and others near Newfound Lake are trying to change the law before any project is proposed there.
“Not veto power, but at least the local communities position would be a major component to the review process,” Silberman said. “And right now, it’s not.”
Local residents also weighed in on wind farms.
“We love our mountain views, (Wind farms) are very distracting and they are really loud,” Kyle Tucker of Bristol said.
“I don’t have a problem seeing them on the mountain, they are a great feat of engineering,” said Bob Cantara of Bristol. “I am in favor of clean energy, I just don’t like it being shoved down our throats the way they are doing it.”
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