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Groton Wind Farm conversation continues

May 14, 2010
RUMNEY — Once again this week, dozens of residents from Rumney and surrounding communities gathered at the Russell Elementary School for an informational public hearing about the proposed Wind Power Facility on Tenney Mountain and Fletcher Ridge in Groton.

The three-hour meeting was the second public hearing sponsored by the Rumney Select Board in recent weeks. The first hearing featured representatives from Iberdrola Renewables, and detailed the proposed wind farm project including potential energy, environmental, economic and aesthetic impacts on surrounding communities.

On Monday night, representatives from the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative joined Attorney Michael Iocapino, legal counsel to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, in making detailed presentations and answering questions about the site review process for approving the project and proposals for handling the power generated from the project if it should be built.

Iacapino said that no decisions have been made on the project to date, but that the application for Groton Wind has been completed by Iberdrola Renewables, submitted, and accepted for review by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), which has jurisdiction in the case.

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee has jurisdiction over any proposed power project that will generate over 30 Megawatts. It coordinates the multi-agency review and permitting process in order to streamline the process for proposed facilities that are likely to have substantial energy, environmental, economic and other regional impacts in the state. It largely supersedes any local planning and zoning board review processes that would apply for smaller scale facilities.

Power generated from Groton Wind would be fed into the grid via lines owned and operated locally by the New Hampshire Electric Co-op to be sold on the open market by developer/owner Iberdrola Renewables of New England. A potential route for the power lines through Rumney has been proposed by Iberdrola as part of its SEC application, but is subject to change as the process unfolds and negotiations with the New Hampshire Electric Coop (NHEC) continue.

The entire SEC application for Iberdrola's proposed Groton Wind Farm Project can be found on the website at www.nhsec.h.gov. and a copy is available for review at the Rumney Town offices.

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) will hold a public hearing somewhere in Grafton County in the next few months. That meeting will be open to the public. The meeting has not yet been scheduled, but will be posted for 30 days in local newspapers. There will be a public comment period as part of the proceedings. Additional hearings in Concord will be scheduled as part of the review process.

At the request of the Rumney Selectboard, Iberdrola Renewables is sponsoring a bus tour to their recently completed Lempster New Hampshire Wind Farm project so that area residents can get a sense of what the wind farm project will entail if it is built in Groton. While the entire project is to be built in the Town of Groton, the Wind Towers will be visible from points in Rumney and Plymouth and there will be economic and other impacts to surrounding communities during construction of the facility. The tour is scheduled to take place on June 5, leaving the Russell School at 8 a.m. and returning between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. Anyone interested must sign up at the selectmen's office by May 21.

Mr. Iacopino explained that the members of the SEC subcommittee that will deliberate on the application have recently been chosen, with representatives from The Department of Environmental Services (DES), Transportation (DOT), Health and Human Services, Fish and Game, Resources and Economic Development, Cultural Resources and the Public Utilities Commission appointed to the seven-member review board.

The New Hampshire Electric Coops Steve Kaminski gave an extremely educational power point presentation about where our electricity comes from locally. He explained that while the power generated from the wind farm would flow into the nearest homes and businesses locally through the Coops poles and wires, most likely via the Beebe River substation located near Route 93, the energy will be sold on the open market as part of a complex set of transactions that ultimately determine the price of electricity at various locations throughout New England. In order to diversity its portfolio and minimize risk, NHEC purchases power from a variety of sources, including the Iberdrola wind power project in Lempster, but has not entered into discussions about the possibility of purchasing power from Groton Wind at some point in the future. Kaminski said that Groton Wind would generate far more power than the NHEC would be in a position to use as part of its portfolio and indicated that Iberdrola will likely sell much of its power elsewhere in New England.

The Rumney Select Board is currently soliciting written comments from Rumney residents for input into the statewide site review process for the renewable energy project, scheduled to take place in the months ahead. Some Rumney residents have raised questions and concerns about the potential visual, economic, environmental, health and safety impacts of the wind power plant. These are the concerns that the Site Evaluation Review process is designed to address.

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