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January 06. 2014 7:11PM

Alexandria, Danbury residents to weigh in on wind energy plan

ALEXANDRIA — Residents for and against the proposed Wild Meadows wind farm project are expected to jam the Old Town Hall for tonight’s discussion of the project’s PILOT program just offered to Alexandria and Danbury.

Danbury officials, who say they have received the PILOT proposal but have not discussed it yet, will count ballots Wednesday night from residents. The town sent letters to approximately 800 registered voters last month with ballots asking if they support the project, asking for a yes or no vote. The selectmen have said the town’s position on the project will be established by the vote.

The company proposing the project, Iberdrola Renewables, the Spanish energy company with U.S. headquarters in Portland, Ore., doesn’t need the towns’ approval, as the project’s wind towers would be built on privately leased land in each town. The state’s Site Evaluation Committee will decide whether to allow the project after about a year’s study.

Iberdrola officials say they hope to get local approval, even if it’s not necessary. That’s why they offer the PILOT program, the title of which stands for payment in lieu of taxes.

“Overall, we estimate the project will contribute $1.6 million per year to the local community, or more than $33 million over 20 years,” said Iberdrola’s Paul Copleman.

But New Hampshire Wind Watch, a group whose 2,000 members oppose the Wild Meadows project because of the potential negative effects on the vistas, property values and tourism in the Newfound Lake-Cardigan Mountain area, has been communicating with Alexandria residents and other area residents, urging them to speak their minds at the meeting.

“Here we are, a little over one year in our fight against Big Wind. Take a big breath, we need to power on, and this Tuesday night we really need you in person,” Wind Watch President Lori Lerner said in an email to the group’s members and area residents.

“(The Alexandria selectmen) want to hear your feelings about the specific agreement Iberdrola has proposed, so they can report to the Site Evaluation Committee not just about the vote from last year but reactions directly regarding the specific agreement sent to the town a few weeks ago.”

Iberdrola Renewables submitted an application to build the 75.9-megawatt, 23-turbine Wild Meadows project in Danbury and Alexandria on Dec. 13 — 15 wind towers would be built in Danbury and eight in Alexandria.

Company officials say the project would produce energy to power approximately 30,000 average homes each year and 90,000 homes at peak production. The company has already entered into contracts with Massachusetts energy buyers for the power produced by Wild Meadows.

The town of Groton in 2010 accepted a PILOT project for Iberdrola’s Groton Wind project, which is online but has come under fire from local landowners and the state fire marshal, who claim that the company has varied from its original plans and not reported changes to the Site Evaluation Committee.

The committee has notified the company that it is considering suspending or removing the plant’s license. It will schedule hearings on the matter later this month.

The 15-year PILOT program for Alexandria would provide total payments of $5,942,921, yielding annual payments to Alexandria of $325,400 in the first full year of the PILOT, with annual increases thereafter of 2.5 percent. The agreement does not cover expected changes in land use tax fees, which the company will be responsible for and are estimated at $80,000.

The PILOT agreement includes payments of $40,000 or more to the town during the construction phase. Based on Alexandria’s 2012 tax commitment, the PILOT would represent nearly a 7.5 percent increase in town revenue, Copleman said.

Company officials have estimated economic benefits to Danbury through its pilot plan would include first-year payments of $695,000, with ongoing payments of about $545,000 annually.

The PILOT agreements cover “a range of town issues, including roads, construction work timing and decommissioning,” according to Iberdrola officials.

dseufert@newstote.com


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