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State to hear plans for new wind farm in Coos County

On Monday New Hampshire's Site Evaluation Committee is going to begin evaluating a proposed renewable energy project for Coos county. Granite Reliable Power wants to put up 33 wind turbines on nine miles of ridgeline across Millsfield, Dixville and Dummer. The project would go a long way to increasing the state's renewable energy portfolio. But as NHPR Correspondent Chris Jensen reports, it has a great deal of opposition.

On Monday New Hampshire's Site Evaluation Committee is going to begin evaluating a proposed renewable energy project for Coos county.

Granite Reliable Power wants to put up 33 wind turbines on nine miles of ridgeline across Millsfield, Dixville and Dummer.

The project would go a long way to increasing the state's renewable energy portfolio.

But as NHPR Correspondent Chris Jensen reports, it has a great deal of opposition.

This project, proposed by Granite Reliable Power is huge.

Estimated to cost about 275 million dollars, it may be the largest construction project Coos has ever seen.

It would mean millions of dollars for the Coos economy.

But before it can go forward, the state's Site Evaluation Committee has to approve it.

And for the next couple of weeks, the committee will be hearing testimony on the projects pros and cons.

"I think there are three real benefits that we are talking about. There is energy benefits, there is economic benefits and environmental benefits associated with the project."

That's Pip Decker, the development manager for Noble Environmental Power of Connecticut.

Noble controls Granite Reliable Power.

The company says the proposed windfarm would produce as much as 99 megawatts of... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

On Monday New Hampshire's Site Evaluation Committee is going to begin evaluating a proposed renewable energy project for Coos county.

Granite Reliable Power wants to put up 33 wind turbines on nine miles of ridgeline across Millsfield, Dixville and Dummer.

The project would go a long way to increasing the state's renewable energy portfolio.

But as NHPR Correspondent Chris Jensen reports, it has a great deal of opposition.

This project, proposed by Granite Reliable Power is huge.

Estimated to cost about 275 million dollars, it may be the largest construction project Coos has ever seen.

It would mean millions of dollars for the Coos economy.

But before it can go forward, the state's Site Evaluation Committee has to approve it.

And for the next couple of weeks, the committee will be hearing testimony on the projects pros and cons.

"I think there are three real benefits that we are talking about. There is energy benefits, there is economic benefits and environmental benefits associated with the project."

That's Pip Decker, the development manager for Noble Environmental Power of Connecticut.

Noble controls Granite Reliable Power.

The company says the proposed windfarm would produce as much as 99 megawatts of power.

Granite says that's enough to power 40,000 homes with clean power.

Peter Roth is an assistant attorney general.

He was appointed to look out for the interests of the state's consumers.

"My basic position has been throughout that I am not opposed to wind power and I am not opposed to this project. I think three quarters of the project is really nice."

It is that other quarter that bothers Roth and others.

They worry about the loss of about 14 acres of wetlands, disturbing wildlife and clearing land on some untouched, mountain ridgelines.

Early this year, the Appalachian Mountain Club and New Hampshire Fish and Game filed reports strongly objecting to parts of the project.

They said that the wind farm should simply not be allowed on Mount Kelsey or Dixville Peak.

The New Hampshire Audubon shares that opinion.

Both areas have undisturbed, old-growth forests and are important habitats for animals such as the threatened Bicknell Thrush.

But last month the AMC and Fish and Game came to a tentative agreement with Granite Reliable.

AMC and Fish and Game would drop their objections.

In exchange Granite would protect about 2200 acres of nearby land with conservation easements.

Granite estimated the deal's cost at $2.4 million.

Fish and Game refused to talk about the earlier, critical report.

But David Publicover, with the AMC, says the tentative agreement protects far more land.

"We think the additional mitigation that is being proposed and specifically the limitation on timber harvesting will provide a long-term benefit that enhances the value of those conserved lands."

If the deal doesn't go through Publicover says, AMC stands by its original position that parts of the project should not be allowed.

To some environmentalists the proposed deal was a huge disappointment.

Lisa Linowes is from Lyman.

She is the executive director of The Industrial Wind Action Group, which is critical of some aspects of wind energy

"From my perspective Fish and Game and AMC have caved to Noble Environmental's wishes and have taken very little in return."

Money will be the other big issue during the hearings.

Attorney Peter Roth, who represents consumers, says state law requires Noble to prove it can pay for the project.

And in Roth's opinion, the company hasn't done that.

Roth says he worries that Nobel will clear the land and build the roads and then run out of money.

"So, what you have is an environmental impact without corresponding benefits to the people of New Hampshire."

Noble has had some financial problems.

It has laid off workers in other states and stopped some projects.

An effort to raise money by taking Noble public stalled.

But those questions don't concern some local officials.

Executive Councilor Ray Burton favors it.

So do the Coos County Commissioners.

Last year, the commissioners signed a deal with Noble.

Instead of taxes, Noble would pay the county as much as $500,000 each year for the next decade.

Ross Gittell is a professor of economics at the University of New Hampshire.

Noble paid Gittell to examine the project's benefits to the Coos economy.

"There is a big economic impact at exactly the time when the county and the state could use some positive, economic stimulus."

The biggest bang, he says, comes with the two years of construction.

Gittell figures it will produce about 175 construction jobs each year.

But because the jobs are specialized, only about 15 workers will likely come from Coos.

Nevertheless that construction will put $20 million into Coos each of those two years.

When the wind farm is working it will need six full-time workers.

Gittell predicts overall Coos would enjoy a 4.3 million dollar annual boost to the economy.

But some Coos residents object to what they say would be the loss of the area's "heart and soul."

And they predict tourism will suffer.

But some of those who live closest support the project.

The town of Dummer came down in favor of it.

David Dubey is a selectman.

"Well, certainly the advantages of producing green power is something that appealed to us. Moreover the proposal includes an amount of development within our town that is going to add to our tax base."

Some people from Millsfield took a tour Noble offered to some other wind farms.

One person who went was Wayne Urso.

He says the windmills looked okay, they were quiet.

"From what we saw, I think the citizens are favorable towards a wind farm."

But Urso is ticked off that the committee's hearings on the project are being held in Concord, not Coos.

Residents won't be able to hear experts dig into the project's details.

"The wind farm is being proposed to be built in the North Country. They are not being proposed to be built in Concord."

The committee said holding the hearings in Coos would be inconvenient for the board.

But the committee did say it would hold a hearing on March 19th somewhere in Coos to give residents a chance to testify.

A final decision on the project is due early in April.


Source: http://www.nhpr.org/node/23715

MAR 5 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/19385-state-to-hear-plans-for-new-wind-farm-in-coos-county
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