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Wind company encounters opposition in Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA – Two representatives from Portuguese wind-energy company EDP Renewables came before the selectmen Tuesday night, seeking a permit to build a meteorological tower that would tell them if a site in town is suitable for a wind farm.

What was supposed to be a brief discussion with the selectmen, though, turned into an often-contentious question-and-answer session with a group of about 40 disgruntled town and area residents.

Repeatedly, audience members issued the same message to the company.

“You are not wanted here,” said resident Bob Piehler.

And at the end of the meeting, Selectmen Michael Broome announced that because the town now has a “rights-based” ordinance that firmly states the rights of the town to decide its own future, he would not be supporting the company’s efforts.

“Because we have the RBO, I will not sign a permit for the meteorological tower,” Broome said. Selectman George Tuthill did not make such a commitment, and Selectman Donnie Sharp was not present at the meeting.

During the public input session of the meeting, EDP Renewables project manager Derek Rieman and company attorney Mark E. Beliveau were repeatedly asked for more details about their company’s proposed $140 million, 60-megwawatt, 15 to 25 turbine Spruce Ridge project. The project would be built on a single landowner’s leased property safeandsoundschools.org which stretches across the towns of Groton, Alexandria, Hebron and Orange.

But both of the company’s representatives said the company isn’t sure it will file an application with the state’s Site Evaluation Committee. The data from the meteorological tower would first be necessary to decide the project’s future, they said.

“Right now the project is very immature,” said Rieman. “But will you be interested in how the people feel about this project?” said Lori Lerner of New Hampshire Wind Watch, a group that opposed Iberdrola Renewable’s Wild Meadows wind farm project, which was recently withdrawn because of what the company called “the current political and regulatory climate” in the state.

“We will be taking in as much feedback as possible, and the public’s input is a very important component to the project. It’s not the most important, but it is very important,” Beliveau said.

“We can save you some money,” an audience member said. “The feedback here is no.”

The audience had members of Wind Watch and other groups opposing Wild Meadows. Many of the groups held victory parties when Iberdrola announced its withdrawal of the project after two years of hearings and mostly negative feedback from area residents.

“I will tell you,” Piehler said, “in the past 20 months we have learned a lot. We have been dismissed, but not anymore.”

And though the company is only seeking an 80-meter meteorological tower at the moment, they have drawn firm opposition. Peter Silbermann of the Wild Meadows Legal Fund announced that his group has changed its name to Cardigan Legal Fund, and told the EDP representatives that “We will oppose this project at every turn.”

Lerner also announced that Wind Watch will oppose the project.