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Groton wind farm issues prompt state to set hearings

GROTON – The state’s Site Evaluation Committee has granted requests for hearings by neighbors of the town’s new wind farm, who claim that the company that built and operates the farm, Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, hasn’t lived up to its original agreements with the town and the state.

The SEC issued a ruling Tuesday warning Iberdrola that it has received correspondence claiming that Iberdrola is “operating the facility … in violation of the terms and conditions of the certificate of site.”

“ … If found to be in violation of the certificate or decision, the certificate may be suspended and/or revoked,” DES Commissioner Thomas Burack said in the letter.

A group opposing new development of wind farms in New Hampshire, New Hampshire Wind Watch, said the decision to hold hearings came because of “reckless” behavior by Iberdrola officials.

“Iberdrola has demonstrated a reckless disregard for New Hampshire’s rules and its residents,” said Lori Lerner, president of Wind Watch. “The New Hampshire attorney general, our state fire marshal, and numerous members of the public have called on the SEC to require Iberdrola to correct the violations or for project operations to stop.”

One of the major issues deals with fire department access to roads. Many residents, and officials in neighboring Rumney, say the wind farm refuses to plow the roads to its turbines in winter months, making it impossible to reach parts of Groton that Rumney is required to cover in an emergency.

“There are many issues raised pertaining to fire safety,” SEC Administrator Tim Drew said.

Iberdrola officials said the company has already responded to complaints and will comply with the hearings process.“The issues raised by a small group of people requesting an SEC review of Groton are issues that we take very seriously, but are issues we have already dealt with in the original SEC permit process, and in a subsequent DES process,” said Paul Copleman communications manager with Iberdrola Renewables.

“Groton Wind has been in full compliance with its permits, but we remain in active communication with these folks and are working to resolve their concerns,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Burack issued a ruling granting a motion to intervene in the hearings by two nearby landowners who have specific complaints about the Groton Wind LLC, which was built with town approval and went online last Dec. 31.
Drew said the orders issued set forth a framework for the state to deal with numerous issues raised by abutters and residents in the past two years, since the 24-turbine, 48-megawatt wind farm. Groton Wind was built with the understanding that it will pay the town about $528,000 in taxes, roughly equivalent to the town’s yearly budget.

The SEC granted approval for the wind farm on May 6, 2011. Drew said the complaints have risen to the level of state hearings, which will be held the beginning of 2014.

Residents with complaints about fire safety, or who are asking Iberdrola for a new environmental, health and safety plan, need to file complaints or responses to rulings with the committee by Nov. 18.

Those complaining that the company has violated state codes or have other concerns about Groton Wind’s operation building at 590 Groton Hollow Road must file their complaints or responses by Dec. 4.

Wind Watch members were planning to raise their issues with Iberdrola officials at a selectmen’s meeting in Alexandria Tuesday night.