A Lyman-based wind action group is taking on the Granite Reliable Power wind park in Coos County, arguing there is no compelling reason the state should grant GRP’s request to double the width of the access roads in sensitive high-elevation areas.
In March, wind park owner Brookfield Renewable Power filed a motion to amend the wind park’s siting certificate issued in July 2009 by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC).
The company cites a 2013 turbine failure on Mt. Kelsey and lightning strike to the blade of another turbine, also on Mt. Kelsey, that required a crane and heavy equipment to repair.
The wind park was approved five years ago after a high-elevation mitigation settlement agreement was reached between then-owner Noble Environmental Power and the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game.
A settlement condition currently limits the width of access roads to 12 feet, with re-vegetation if roads ever need to be temporarily widened.
The agreement was executed in 2009 after concerns by AMC, Fish and Game and other interveners about impacts the project would have on sensitive high-elevation tree and wildlife species such as older growth spruce fir forest and animal species that include the American marten, Canada lynx and Bicknell’s thrush.
According to the agreement, “Mt. Kelsey and Dixville Peak encompass high-elevation ecosystems of particularly high quality and development of the wind park will impact these habitats and wildlife species of conservation concern …”
Now, Brookfield, which took ownership of the wind park in 2011, seeks to establish road widths of 16 feet, and up to 26 feet at six corners, arguing “after further engineering and operational evaluation, it is now apparent that the Mt. Kelsey turbines will require periodic maintenance and that this maintenance necessitates a roadway wider than 12 feet.”
But in pre-filed testimony submitted last week, Lisa Linowes, director of the Lyman-based WindAction Group, said Brookfield has not sufficiently demonstrated evidence for its claim and cited a July transcript from wind park operations and maintenance supervisor John Cyr.
“Mr. Cyr states it is highly unlikely that every turbine will need to be serviced by large cranes over the life of the project, yet the proposed plan calls for an extensive length of road on Mt. Kelsey to be left devoid of trees,” she wrote.
Linowes tracks wind energy with a focus on impacts of industrial-scale wind parks on the natural environment and communities.
Of the road proposal for GRP, she said, “This change in plan is a significant deviation from the plan as approved by the SEC. Before the SEC can agree to paring back an important condition of the certificate, we would recommend a full analysis be conducted to evaluate whether these changes are necessary and the extent of the changes. It is not sufficient to base this decision on a single turbine failure.”
The 33-turbine, 99-megawatt-capacity wind park that went into operation in late 2011 stretches across 15 miles of ridge line in the unincorporated places of Dixville, Erving’s Location, Millsfield and Odell and the town of Dummer.
The Canadian-based Brookfield Renewable Power took over the ownership of the wind park in 2011 from the original owner and builder, Noble Environmental Power.
Interveners against road widening argue Brookfield knew the condition of the settlement when it became the wind park owner.
To SEC, Linowes wrote, “It is difficult to believe that a company with such extensive experience could fail to understand the impact on operations if required to re-vegetate the roads on Mt. Kelsey to 12 feet wide. The issue of road width and access would have been paramount from the outset, since turbine manufacturers impose specific requirements for access.”
According to a SEC filing this week, Peter Roth, counsel for the public with the N.H. attorney general’s office, still opposes wider roads.
In April, Roth filed an objection, arguing the widening proposal is “contrary to the representation and assurances made by the current ownership in 2011” and “seeks to undermine a key element of a carefully crafted set of conditions, without which the project would likely have not been approved.”
Roth said Mt. Kelsey has “among the last remaining areas of contiguous high-elevation spruce fir forest in New Hampshire” and Brookfield’s plan would have an unreasonable adverse impact on them.
Roth asked why a “singular incident” of a turbine failure “requires a wholesale rollback of the condition.”
An e-mail placed to Brookfield representatives Thursday asking why the company seeks to widen the roads after one turbine failure, if it foresees other turbine failures, and if the company proposes any measures to mitigate the impact of wider roads was not immediately returned.
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