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Skepticism remains on benefits to Grafton-Windham wind project

GRAFTON – Concerns about the low-frequency sound coming from wind turbines and the environmental impacts from clear-cutting the land necessary to build what would be the state’s largest wind project were the hot topics Tuesday during a public meeting.

Iberdrola Renewables wants to build the Stiles Brook Wind Project on land owned by Meadowsend Timberland Ltd., of New London, N.H. The 28 turbines would generate 96.6 megawatts of power, with eight turbines located in Grafton and 20 in Windham.

Iberdrola officials said Tuesday said it won’t apply for a state certificate of need for the wind project until after two public votes, slated for the November general election, but it’s been doing various studies on the impact of the project.

During the “technical” workshop held at the Grafton Village School, residents from both towns got to ask questions of Iberdrola’s consultants on the issues they were concerned about.

For Flo Lockerby, it was questions about why Iberdrola’s experts weren’t studying “infrasound,” the term used for the low frequency sounds that many wind opponents who live near wind projects claim are ruining their health and quality of life.

Lockerby, a physical therapist who has lived in Grafton for eight years, said she was leaning toward voting in favor of the Iberdrola project, but she still had questions that she felt Iberdrola should answer.

“My concerns are infrasound, and that it’s not being addressed,” said Lockerby. She said that the low-frequency sound from the turbines should be monitored for the first three to five years after the project is built.

“I am for wind,” said Lockerby. “I think it’s reasonable to study how it affects people’s health.”

Lockerby says she has walked around at the site and her husband Randy, who works for the Windham Foundation, hunts on the land.

But Mark Bastasch of CH2M Hill Inc., an Iberdrola noise consultant, said there was no peer-reviewed scientific studies that supported the claims of infrasound and that was why Iberdrola was not studying it.

Bastasch said that only a few hunting camps were close to the turbines, and all permanent homes were outside the area of greatest impact.

Lockerby and several other Grafton residents at the informal pizza-and-soda gathering said that most of the 400 residents in the small town had already made up their minds on how they would vote on the project.

“I think aesthetics bothers others, aesthetics is a huge issue,” said Lockerby, who said she didn’t think she would be able to see the project from her home. “But personally, I think they look beautiful.”

On the other side of the debate was Grafton Selectman Skip Lisle, who said his home on Cabell Road would be one of the closest to the turbines.

Lisle is vehemently opposed to the project. “I’ll be able to see it from all over my property,” he said.

He said his home was downwind from the wind project as well, meaning any sound would also be coming his way.

“It attacks your nervous system,” said Lisle. “We believe we’re going to be driven out of our house,” he said, noting his family had lived there for more than 50 years.

The meeting attracted one candidate for governor – former Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, who drove over from his home in neighboring Townshend to pick up supporters to his anti-industrial wind development.

Wind projects built on ridgelines threaten some of the most fragile lands in the state, he said. “I’m not in favor of a moratorium, I’m in favor of a ban,” he said.

But Lockerby said that all energy projects involved what she called “sacrifice.”

If one or two homes prove inhabitable because of the project, she said it would be a “reasonable sacrifice.”

“Life is sacrifice, We don’t feel the sacrifice of the oil and gas (development) that we don’t see,” she said.

“I think I will vote for it in November,” said Lockerby, while at the same time saying she continued to have questions and would be at another public meeting later in the month about the impact the project would have on black bears in the region.

“I want to learn as much as possible,” she said.