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November 04. 2012 10:33PM

Wind farm builder seeks to allay fears in Newfound Lake area

ALEXANDRIA - The company planning to build a 37-tower wind farm said it is eager to meet with a group opposing the project to explain its financial benefits and allay fears that vistas in the Newfound Lake-Mount Cardigan area will be ruined.

Iberdrola Renewables, the wind-energy company that built the first commercial wind farm in New Hampshire, is in the early stages of the Meadows Wind Power Project, planned for 6,000 acres already leased from landowners in Alexandria, Grafton and Danbury.

The turbine towers would be more than 400 feet - roughly 40 stories - in height, and would be placed on hilltops and ridges. Each would be lighted at night.

The company needs approval from the state and federal government, but would only need approval from the towns if there were zoning regulations specifically for wind farms. None of the towns have such ordinances.

Edward Cherian, Iberdola's project manager in New Hampshire, said the company does want the towns' consent, and will offer each of the three communities financial benefits similar to those being given in Groton.

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

A group called Newfound Lake Wind Watch opposes the project, claiming the financial benefits would be easily outweighed by the loss of the vistas and danger to wildlife on the lake and near Mount Cardigan State Park.

At the group's first meeting Thursday, a composite illustration was displayed that depicted numerous large, lighted towers on the mountain ridges surrounding the lake.

Group members say the loss of scenery has a financial cost in an area that relies heavily on tourist dollars. Property values in the area would also decline, they said.

"New Hampshire's ridge lines are not renewable," said Denise Schneider, one of the group's organizers. "All of the beauty of our area would disappear."

Cherian said the depiction of towers lining the area's mountain tops is not accurate, something the company will demonstrate to residents at "Open House" meetings at Grafton Town Hall on Nov. 13, Alexandria Town Hall on Nov. 14 and Danbury Town Hall on Nov. 15.

"I can guarantee you that these towers will not be looming over Newfound Lake," he said.

"The nearest mountain (with towers) is on the southern end of the lake, and would mostly only be visible from the middle of the lake facing southwest," Cherian said.

The company says it will offer residents a round-trip ride to Lempster to see its first Granite State project.

dseufert@newstote.com


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