Canaan – Following recent votes against a proposed industrial wind power project in the Cardigan Mountain region, the international company proposing the project seems no closer to filing for a state permit.
“We’re not really prepared to file one at this time,” said Jeffrey Nemeth, of EDP Renewables North America, who is managing the so-called Spruce Ridge Wind Project in five Grafton County towns near Cardigan Mountain. There are “more studies that need to be done.”
In addition to studying the area’s wildlife and topography, Nemeth said EDP Renewables North America, a subsidiary of a Portugal-based company with national headquarters in Texas, is seeking a buyer for the power which would be produced by 29 wind turbines, each 500 feet tall.
“When we build, we want to have some type of agreement in place that we could sell the electricity,” said Nemeth.
Though he indicated a filing for the $140 million project is not imminent, he also said he does not have a fixed timeline. Should conditions change, the company could file by the end of the year, he said.
“Nothing’s been decided,” he said.
The holding pattern comes as two Massachusetts utilities, National Grid and NStar, opted in early January to terminate contracts to buy wind power from the proposed $2.5 billion Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, saying the project – which is not directly connected to Spruce Ridge – had missed a Dec. 31 deadline to obtain financing and begin construction, according to the Associated Press. Costs to build offshore wind project can be higher than land-based facilities.
As proposed in filings with the Federal Aviation Administration in November, the Spruce Ridge wind farm would include six turbines in Canaan, eight in Orange, and the rest in Alexandria, Dorchester and Groton.
But, Nemeth said, the FAA filing occurs very early in the process of constructing a wind farm and the sites proposed are “very likely not going to be the final locations.”
He said the FAA filing is simply used to get a determination from the agency about the feasibility of siting a wind project the area.
Since the November filing, residents in the affected communities have organized opposition to the project.
Voters in Orange overwhelmingly voiced their opposition in a 117-7 Town Meeting vote this month. Orange voters also approved an article to require companies proposing to build wind facilities in the town to post a bond sufficient to cover costs of removing and disposing of the facilities and remediating the landscape if they were to close.
Similarly, Dorchester voters expressed their opposition to the project in a 36-3 vote at their Town Meeting this month.
“EDP just got a strong message,” said Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which tracks energy projects around the region. “If they were smart, they would do what Iberdrola did and withdraw.”
Developer Iberdrola scrapped a plan to construct a wind energy project in the Cardigan Mountain region last year.
Smith said the communities’ opposition sends a signal that constructing a wind project in the area would cost more than expected.
Groton resident Mark Watson said he was glad to see opposition by local communities, but frustrated that EDP Renewables has not clearly stated whether it plans to move forward with the project.
“It’s hard to get a direct answer from EDP,” he said. “I just wish they would be straight-forward.”
Nemeth said the company does intend to move forward with Spruce Ridge Wind Farm.
“I understand some local residents are not excited about the project,” said Nemeth. “Everybody is entitled to their opinion.”
But, he said, the company is “happy to work with local communities and involve them in the process.”
While they await word from EDP, Watson and his wife Nancy have been participating in the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s rule making process, a procedure some opponents regard as another avenue for thwarting the project and others like it.
Mark Watson said he hopes to ensure that towns’ master plans are taken into account as part of the state’s evaluation of an energy project and that good neighbor agreements, private deals between landowners and energy companies, are made public.
As the rules now stand, Watson said, there’s “no way to know who in your neighborhood has signed on.”
The public comment period for the proposed rules ends on March 23 at 4 p.m.
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