GROTON – The state’s investigation and hearings regarding the Groton Wind plant have come to a close, as the state’s Site Evaluation Committee has ruled that the plant and its parent company, Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, have now met all state requirements and obtained all necessary permits.
The $120 million, 24-turbine plant received its certificate of operation from the SEC in May of 2011, and the plant went online in December of 2012. But the committee threatened to remove the certificate in November of 2013 because investigators had found that the plant’s owners had not obtained necessary permits from the state fire marshal and numerous other state agencies before building it.
In addition, the complaints of abutters and town officials in neighboring Rumney have been satisfied, and the $160,000 financial settlement sought by the state Attorney General’s Office because of unapproved changes the company made to its building plans has been paid.
In its final decision and order on outstanding issues of Sept. 21, the SEC said “all outstanding issues” in the matter have been resolved. But the committee noted that most of the issues could have been better dealt with before the plant went online.
“…We believe that it is important to note that most, if not all, of the issues raised in this docket would have been avoided if the applicant had, at the very least, notified the (SEC and the Attorney General) of the changes that it intended to undertake,” the SEC wrote.
Iberdrola Renewables’ Art Sasse said the company was pleased that the matter has come to a close.
“All changes required by the fire marshal have been made and all construction has been completed,” Sasse said. “We take great pride in our reputation as strong and caring community partners across the U.S. where we operate nearly 60 renewable energy projects. We look forward to continuing to grow and improve our relationship with the Groton community.”
But New Hampshire Wind Watch, a group that has opposed the building of new wind-power projects in the state and which was vocal in its criticisms of Groton Wind, says the company failed its neighbors.
“There is a detailed record chronicling multiple issues owing to Iberdrola’s failure to build the project according to its state (certificate of operation),” Wind Watch said in a statement Thursday. “After a lengthy enforcement proceeding, the Site Evaluation Committee accepted a settlement agreement between the public and Iberdrola as restitution for the company’s actions. The settlement does not erase the fact that Iberdrola evidently violated the terms of its (certificate), and in doing so abused the public trust.”
In August 2013, Ronald D. Anstey, section chief and investigator with the state Fire Marshal’s Office, found the plant’s owners did not file fire code and safety code plans, failed to provide required fire suppression at the turbines, and had not obtained proper approval from state agencies for its design and construction of the plant and its operations and maintenance building, which the company moved across the street from its originally stated location.
Groton Wind initially rejected those findings, saying company officials had obtained the proper permits through the Department of Environmental Services. But the company later agreed to a compliance agreement with the Fire Marshal’s Office, working to properly obtain the required permits for the wind turbines and for the operations and maintenance building,
The compliance agreement required improved fire suppression systems and improved access to the turbines in winter months for vehicles in Groton and Rumney. The state also required improved lightning protection, and other building and tower improvements in order to meet state codes.
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