December 09. 2012 10:37PM

Petition challenges 37-turbine wind farm project near Newfound Lake

Union Leader Correspondent

Signs from New Hampshire Wind Watch, like this one in Grafton, are popping up around the Newfound Lake/Mount Cardigan area. (COURTESY)
GRAFTON - Opponents of a planned 37-turbine wind-power project on 6,000 acres of private land in Grafton, Alexandria and Danbury have started a petition asking state officials to stop the development.

"The negative consequences of this industrial wind farm development far outweigh the benefits. We the people want this stopped to protect our homes, our land, our communities," states the petition, which was written by Grafton resident Erin Darrow.

The project is planned by Spanish wind-energy giant Iberdrola Renewables, which recently built a 24-turbine, $120 million 48-megawatt wind farm in Groton.

Groton selectmen signed a 15-year-agreement with the company that will pay the town $528,000 - roughly equivalent Groton's most recent town budget - in the first year. Each of the project's 24 wind turbines will net the town $22,000 in the years that follow.

Iberdrola officials have already leased the land from private landowners for the Wild Meadows Wind Power Project, and now need state approval. Residents in the three towns have been assured by the company that they will have "a seat at the table" in the permitting process discussions.

In the survey, opponents cite five issues:

-- "As yet unknown" public health threats from the 40-story turbines;

--The cost to the community in terms of property values;

--Effects on wildlife;

--The perceived lack of benefit to the town and state of the electricity produced;

--The lack of public knowledge about the project.

"This development has been in the planning phases for years, yet only now is it being publicly presented in the local communities," the petition states.

So far, the petition has garnered 118 signatures; Darrow said more than 500 are being sought. The petition will be sent to the state's Site Evaluation Committee, which is part of the Department of Environmental Services.

Darrow is a civil engineer who bought her home several years ago.

The home has tremendous views that she says will be damaged by the project - views for which she said she is now taxed.

"If this goes through, I will definitely seek a tax abatement," she said. "I saved up my money for this home, and when I cleared the land for the view, the value doubled. It's going to destroy the value of my farm. What we have here is very special."

One of the circulators of the petition, Sean Frost, operates a landscaping business from his home in Grafton. He said the project's environmental impacts are being understated by the company.

"I've lived in Wild Meadows all of my life," Frost said. "The amount of blasting they will have to do is bad enough. It would change everything about this area."

Frost said the Groton project and the biomass plants in Alexandria and Bridgewater represent all the region should be asked to give in terms of alternative energy sources.

"I think this area has done its part for green energy," he said.