Published Date Written by Mike MortensenBRISTOL — Wind power projects, like the one that already exists in Newfound Region, and two others that are being proposed, represent the wrong kind of renewable energy source for New Hampshire and the Northeast, according to a scientist who addressed a gathering organized by project opponents.
About 400 people turned out at Newfound Regional High School to hear the talk Friday evening by Dr. Benjamin Luce, a physicist and chairman of the Sustainability Studies Program at Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vt. He appeared at the invitation of New Hampshire Wind Watch, a nonprofit group organized late last year in hopes of becoming the basis of a statewide anti-wind effort.
Luce told the audience that the array of 24 wind turbines that make up the Groton Wind project, together with the 37-turbine Wild Meadows Power Project being considered for land in Alexandria, Danbury and Grafton, and a third project of 15 to 25 turbines proposed in Groton, Alexandria and Hebron, is part of an enormous development effort to erect wind turbines on ridgelines in all the mountainous areas of the Northeast.
"You're talking about thousands of miles of ridgelines," said Luce, who put the figure at upward of 4,000 miles. "You are looking at massive renewal energy development in the Northeast.
"This is not (about producing the) power that we need," Luce continued. "It's about transitioning away from traditional energy sources" such as nuclear power and fossil fuel generating plants, he said.
But in Luce's opinion putting so much effort into wind-farm development in this part of the country is a flawed strategy. He said that if wind-farm projects were developed to the greatest extent — meaning hundreds or thousands of projects — the power they would produce would satisfy only about 2.5 percent of the region's energy demand. Further, because wind speeds in New England and the Northeast are so fickle, traditional energy plants would still need to remain on-line to ensure the supply of electrical power would be adequate to meet the demand.
"Wind won't be doing any of the heavy lifting to meet our energy needs.
Wind is intended to reduce our carbon footprint," said Lisa Linowes, the executive director of the Industrial Wind Action Group, an anti-wind project group based in Lyman, who participated with Luce in a question-and-answer session after the talk.
Luce said he is also concerned about the environmental impact of large wind farms — noise, marring of scenic vistas, harm to local property values, and disrupting of wildlife habitats and flyways used by migratory birds and bats.
The only kind of wind-power development that Luce sees as offering any real potential is offshore wind projects, such as Cape Wind — a wind farm which has been approved in Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod. But Luce cautioned that it is still too soon to tell if Cape Wind will live up to its supporters' expectations.
Spending money to develop wind farms on land in this part of the county "is putting money into the wrong resource," said Luce. Instead, he said it would be better if the money were put into building large-scale solar — or photovoltaic — energy projects.
"For one-tenth of what we're spending on wind we could have a viable solar power source," he said.
Luce said he is further concerned that the growing public opposition to large wind farm projects could undermine public support for other forms of renewable energy.
The $100 million Groton Wind project, developed by Spanish wind-power company Iberdrola Renewables, went on line Dec. 31, but is not yet producing at full capacity. Under an agreement with Groton, Iberdrola will pay the town $528,000 and then increase the amount of the succeeding payments by 2.5 percent each year for 14 years.
Iberdrola has now set its sights on developing the Meadows Power Project. Meanwhile, EDP Renewables of Portugal is hoping to develop the wind farm in Groton, Alexandria and Hebron.
State Rep. Suzanne Smith of Hebron, one of two lawmakers who spoke briefly during the event, said concerns about the proliferation of wind farm projects explains the large number of bills which have been filed in the current legislative session to deal with wind projects specifically or electrical power projects in general.
One bill sponsored by state Rep. Harold "Skip" Reilly calls for a moratorium on wind turbine projects. Others deal with developing a new state energy plan, the building of major power lines, and the process used to decide requests to build specific projects.
Smith, a Democrat, said judging by the list of bill sponsors, these bills have wide bipartisan support.
"We're reacting (to the projects that are being proposed) rather than being proactive about what is in place," Smith said in a telephone interview on Saturday.
Rep. Glenn Cordelli, a co-sponsor of Reilly's moratorium bill, said that he is concerned that unless legislative action is taken wind turbines — mounted on steel towers that rise 500 into the air, and with rotors that measure 300 feet in diameter — will protrude from the ridges of many of New Hampshire's mountain ranges. The Tuftonboro Republican said his concern is that someone will propose winds farms in Carroll County, possibly including the ridges of the Ossipee Mountain Range which he can see from his home.
Reacting to the turnout at Friday's gathering in Bristol, Cordelli said, "I think there is a lot of interest and desire for more information."