Granite Reliable Power, LLC (Granite Reliable Power), a unit of Noble Environmental Power LLC, said that New Hampshire’s Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) is going to begin evaluating a proposed renewable energy project for Coos county on March 9, 2009. The company wants to put up 33 wind turbines on nine miles of ridgeline across Millsfield, Dixville and Dummer. Cost of the project is about $275 million. 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.
But before it 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.
The company said that the proposed wind farm would produce more than 99 megawatts of power.
Granite Reliable Power says that’s enough to power 40,000 homes with clean power.
Peter Roth has been appointed to look out for the interests of the state’s consumers.
Peter Roth said, “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.”
In early 2009, the Appalachian Mountain Club and New Hampshire Fish and Game filed reports strongly objecting to parts of the wind project.
The wind farm should not be allowed on Mount Kelsey or Dixville Peak.
Both areas have undisturbed, old-growth forests and are main habitats for animals like the threatened Bicknell Thrush.
But in February, 2009 the AMC and Fish and Game came to a tentative agreement with Granite Reliable Power.
AMC and Fish and Game will drop their objections.
In exchange Granite Reliable Power will protect around 2200 acres of nearby land with conservation easements.
Granite Reliable Power expected the deal’s cost at $2.4 million.
Fish and Game rejected to talk about the earlier, report.
But David Publicover, with the AMC, said that 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.
Lisa Linowes, from Lyman is the executive director of The Industrial Wind Action Group, which is critical of few 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.”
Attorney Peter Roth, who represents consumers, says state law needs Noble Environmental Power to prove it can pay for the project.
According to Roth’s opinion, the company hasn’t done that.
Roth also says he worries that Nobel Environmental Power 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.”
Environmental Power has had some financial problems.
The comapny has laid off workers in other states and stopped some projects.
An effort to raise money by taking Noble public stalled.
Executive councilor Ray Burton favors it.
So do the Coos county commissioners.
In 2008, the commissioners signed a deal with Noble Environmental Power.
Incstead of taxes, Noble Environmental Power will pay the county as much as $500,000 per year for the next decade.
Noble Environmental Power has paid Ross Gittell, a professor of economics at the University of New Hampshire 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, Gittell says, comes with the two years of construction.
Gittell figures it will produce create 175 construction jobs per year.
But because the jobs are specific, 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 operational it will need six full-time workers.
Gittell expects overall Coos would enjoy a $4.3 million 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 also 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.”
Dubey 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 might not 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 not be convenient for the board. But the committee did say it will hold a hearing on March 19, 2009 somewhere in Coos to give residents a chance to testify.
A final decision on the wind project is due early in April, 2009.