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Voters may have chance to weigh in on offshore wind power

MERRIMACK – Communities throughout the state may have warrant articles on their spring ballots urging the governor to create a task force to study the feasibility of developing offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine.

“This is very much a kind of grassroots effort,” said Mary Beth Raven of Merrimack, one of the organizers attempting to place a warrant article on Merrimack’s April ballot.

Three communities in New Hampshire have already signed resolutions asking the governor to form the task force: Portsmouth, Dover and Durham. Now, an initiative is underway to gain support from other New Hampshire towns, said Raven.

As the demand for renewable power development grows, she said New Hampshire must begin to join efforts already underway in Massachusetts and Maine to move away from fossil fuels.

Raven previously vacationed on Block Island where the nation’s first wind farm began operating in Rhode Island earlier this year.

“I found them fascinating and beautiful, although I know not everyone agrees,” she said. “This could create cheap energy. It could be cleaner energy.”

About 60 percent of electricity in New Hampshire is generated from natural gas that comes from out of state, according to Raven. Here, in New Hampshire, there is the possibility of creating an offshore wind farm 12 miles offshore that could create local jobs and local energy, she said.

“We could be more sustainable with offshore wind turbines,” Raven maintained.

She admits that there are still a lot of unknowns, but said the task force could help study the issue being supported by clean energy advocates from across the state.

The focus on renewable power sources must not be overlooked, added Raven.

She is petitioning the Merrimack Town Council to place a warrant article on the April ballot asking voters to urge the governor to create the proposed task force to study the feasibility of developing offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine.

Other towns such as New Castle, Exeter, Lee, Marlborough, Nottingham, Rindge and Rye are also considering similar warrant articles.

“We want to get many towns involved to see if they are in favor of this,” explained Raven, a member of 350.org, the New Hampshire Seacoast Alliance and the Citizens Climate Lobby. “The case is not that we want to build it, but that we need a study to determine the feasibility.”

According to her, offshore wind has been identified by a legislative study committee as one of the best options for renewable energy in the state.

The coastal wind of New Hampshire provides capacity to produce about 2,600 megawatts of energy, which could provide almost all of the state with electricity, she said.

In order to bring offshore wind to New Hampshire, however, Gov. Chris Sununu must first request a task force from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management that would study the feasibility of offshore wind in New Hampshire, talk to stakeholders and start the leasing process for the area where the wind turbines will go, according to Raven.