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February 10. 2013 9:02PM

Wind farm giant goes after 'myths'

ALEXANDRIA - The project manager for the Spanish wind power company proposing a 74-megawatt, 37-turbine wind farm in the Newfound-Lake Cardigan area is disputing claims that the state will only see marginal benefits from wind farm projects.

Ed Cherian of Iberdrola Renewables said the state, the towns involved and scores of private landowners will see large financial benefits from the proposed Wild Meadows Wind Power Project on leased land in the towns of Alexandria, Danbury and Grafton.

Cherian disputed claims from Dr. Benjamin Luce, a professor of physics and the chairman of the Sustainability Studies Program at Lyndon State College in Lyndonville, Vt., at a recent meeting of New Hampshire Wind Watch that cast doubt on wind power's potential renewable energy contributions in the state.

Luce said 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.

"It's true that wind power is never going to produce half of New Hampshire's power, but it is another useful energy that contributes to the diversity of renewable power in New Hampshire and New England," Cherian said.

He said Wild Meadows would produce, on average, enough electricity to power more than 32,000 average New Hampshire homes. The power would be added to the regional power grid, and would not go directly to the Granite State.

Study disputed

Cherian said there are "myths" being spread by opponents of the project, including Wind Watch, a 1,300-member group which opposes the project. One, he said, is that the wind farm would decrease property values.

"The property value argument is an emotional issue," he said. "It's been studied and these projects have been found to have no impact on property values."

Wind Watch members, who stand by Luce's statements that wind power will contribute little if any to New Hampshire's energy needs, say studies and decisions made about wind farms in Groton and Lempster are not applicable to the Wild Meadows project because those two towns do not have a large tourist economy based on natural treasures like Newfound Lake and Cardigan Mountain.

"Those are smaller farms, and they aren't in built-up areas like we have here," said Lori Lerner of Wind Watch. "We're talking about a whole lot of wind towers lining the ridges of Newfound Lake. Of course there will be a loss in property values."

A study done in December by the Whittemore School of Business and Economics into the local economic effects of Iberdrola's 12-turbine, 24-megawatt wind farm in Lempster, found the project had little or no effect on property values.

"Based on the analysis conducted in this student and taking into account other studies - based on arms-length sales property transactions, there is no evidence to suggest that the Lempster Wind Power Project has had any consistent, observable, statistically significant impact on property values in Lempster or the communities surrounding the project," the study concluded.

Property values

Cherian said in granting approval for the company's Groton project in May 2011, the state's Site Evaluation Committee heard testimony from area residents and business owners who said the Groton project would damage land values and the economy.

But in its decision document, the SEC stated: "the project will not affect land use and tourism in a manner or degree that would unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region."

Woody Miller, a realtor at Coldwell Bank and Old Mill Properties in Bristol, said the Groton wind farm has likely already slowed the sale of one of his properties in neighboring Rumney. The property once had a nice view, but "now looks at 15 wind towers," he said.

Miller said his firm has had several potential buyers "who have expressed concern about buying in this area because of the potential wind farms."

"I would argue that wind farms here will have a substantial effect on fair-market property values," he said. "If you eliminate even a few of the pool of potential buyers for a particular property, it hurts property sales and therefore values."

Financial impact

Cherian said Iberdrola wind farms in Groton and Lempster contribute heavily to the budgets of those towns, he said, noting the three towns involved in Wild Meadows would see similar benefits.

In the first year of operation, the project would contribute $286,000 to Alexandria's tax base, $352,000 to Danbury, and $176,000 to Grafton, he said. Those amounts would increase yearly, he said.

All of the towns would also see a substantial one-time tax payment from the company for the change in land usage, he said.

The Newfound Lake Association has come out against the Wild Meadows project, as has Bridgewater's board of selectmen. Meanwhile, Rep. Harold "Skip" Reilly, Sr., R-Grafton County District 8, has proposed a bill that would put a moratorium on new wind-power projects until the state updates its energy plans.

dseufert@newstote.com

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