A New Hampshire land conservation organization wants to suspend a state review of a wind energy project to install turbines that would be visible from parts of Grafton, for about a year.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, a nonprofit organization, filed the motion with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee on Friday. It petitioned that the Wild Meadows Wind Farm project application be suspended until a review of the committee’s siting criteria was completed.
The review was mandated in Senate Bill 99, passed last year, which requires the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning to study the committee’s “organization, structure, and process to better ensure that the review of energy facility applications serves the public good.”
“Going back for some time, we have been making a point that the permitting process for large scale wind projects is not adequate,” said Jack Savage, a spokesman for the society, which is based in Concord.
The legislature required that the new rules under SB 99 be put in effect by Jan. 1, 2015. The company behind the wind farm project, Iberdrola Renewables, filed its application with the Site Evaluation Committee in December.
“At this point, because of a lack of comprehensive siting guidelines, it’s pretty much open season on New Hampshire’s landscape,” Savage said.
However, Savage said the society’s board of trustees was not against large scale wind energy projects in the state, and the objections raised in the motion are not in opposition to this specific project.
The renewable energy project is managed by Atlantic Wind, LLC, a subsidiary of the Spain-based Iberdrola. It would install 23 wind turbines in Alexandria, N.H., and Danbury, N.H., each of which would be 492 feet tall. In its current form, Wild Meadows has been estimated to cost about $150 million.
Earlier, the project also called for turbines to be built in Grafton, but residents’ strong opposition led the company to abandon those plans.
Ed Cherian, Wild Meadows’ project developer, said in October that leaving Grafton cut the project’s size by about 40 percent.
But Cindy Kudlik, of Grafton, a staunch opponent of the project, said that the wind farm is still a concern to Grafton residents. She said the closest proposed turbine to her home would be about two miles away, and some of her neighbors’ land abuts the Danbury portion of the project.
She said she had no problem with the society’s filing.
“Well, I think they’re spot on,” Kudlik said. “It’s not time to take on another project like this for the SEC.”
Her goal, though, is to get the turbines away from Grafton entirely. It’s a goal shared among the majority of town residents, who opposed the project at Town Meeting last March by a count of 366 to 166.
Kudlik called the society’s filings a “stopgap.” Her preferred change – a bill that asks for a moratorium on wind turbines until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan – has not left the House since state Rep. Harold “Skip” Reilly, R-Alexandria, introduced it a year ago.
“We won one battle but we didn’t win the war,” Kudlik said. “And I don’t think we can declare victory until Iberdrola packs up and goes back to Spain.”
Cherian, Wild Meadows’ project developer, referred questions to Iberdrola Communications Manager Paul Copleman, who wrote in an email on Sunday that the company is not yet ready to comment on the society’s Friday filings.
“We just received the motion at the end of the week, and once we’ve had a chance to thoroughly review, we will respond accordingly,” Copleman wrote.
Power generated by the proposed Wild Meadows project would be mainly sold to NSTAR, the Massachusetts-based parent company of the Public Service of New Hampshire. According to Iberdrola’s website, the project would generate enough electricity to power more than 90,000 average homes at peak production.
In New Hampshire, Iberdrola has built wind farms in Groton, which has 24 turbines that went online in December 2012, and Lempster, with 12 turbines that went online in 2008.
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