Windfarm expert: NH will see little benefit from projects
BRISTOL - A self-described renewable energy and wind-power proponent said New England and the Northeast will not benefit much from wind power projects like those proposed in the Newfound Lake area.
Benjamin Luce, a professor of physics and the chairman of the Sustainability Studies Program at Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vt., told a crowd of about 250 Friday night that the Midwest is the only part of the United States suited for wind-power production at levels that can make practical contributions to the country's renewable energy portfolio standards.
Luce said Northeast states are being sought out by wind-power developers looking to capitalize on old and inadequate renewable energy standards.
"These are simplistic standards that are grossly slanted toward large, stealth wind-power projects like the ones proposed here," said Luce, who was the guest speaker of New Hampshire Wind Watch at Newfound Memorial High School.
Wind Watch is a 1,300-member group of area residents opposed to recent wind project proposals for wind farms on area ridgelines by two international wind-power giants, Iberdrola Renewables of Spain and EBD Renewables of Portugal. Iberdrola recently completed a wind-farm project in Groton with the state's approval.
Luce previously served as the director of the New Mexico Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and said he has helped write renewable energy portfolio standards for several states.
He said if all the proposed projects in the Northeast are permitted, they would occupy more than 3,000 miles of the region's ridge lines.
Rep. Harold "Skip" Reilly, Sr., R-Bristol, has proposed a bill to the Legislature in this session that would put a moratorium on new wind-power projects until the state updates its renewable energy plans. Other states are considering similar efforts, Luce said.
"The standards in place now were put in place many years ago, they were a first whack to get renewable energy off the ground," he said. "But there is no well-designed road map for how the Northeast is going to pursue renewable energy."
Off-shore wind power projects may offer more potential for renewable energy, he said. But at most, Luce said, the land-based wind power projects now proposed in the Northeast could contribute a few percentage points toward the region's renewable energy needs.
Vermont communities, Luce said, "have been torn apart by fights over wind power lately."
Perhaps the worst part of the situation, he said, is that repeated studies show that New Hampshire's only realistic renewable energy source is solar energy. Though that technology needs more development, it shows promise for a substantial contribution to the area's renewable energy needs.
"Despite what we are being told by these companies, solar energy is the only basic renewable energy we have at our disposal; it offers 10 to 100 times as much as wind power to this area," Luce said. "Solar is still a huge challenge, but I am concerned that we do not put all of our resources toward something that won't make much of a difference."