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April 03. 2014 10:27PM

Legislator calls for closing of Groton wind farm

GROTON — A Lakes Region legislator wants state officials to close the 24-turbine Groton Wind power facility, saying the Site Evaluation Committee should order the plant’s owner, Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, to “cease operations.”

Writing to DES Commissioner Thomas Burack on Monday, Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, said “Groton Wind’s continued, and seemingly deliberate, failure to come into compliance with the state fire and building codes is disappointing.”

“Iberdrola and its representatives have, in the words of (state fire investigator Ronald D. Anstey), employed an apparent strategy of delay and ignorance in an effort to cut corners and circumvent the law,” she wrote.

“In light of this, I urge you to follow and enforce the recommendations of the state fire marshal in overseeing that Iberdrola cease operations until safety concerns, plan reviews and required inspections have been completed and approved.”

Iberdrola officials responded to Forrester’s comments in a letter to her Thursday.

“Iberdrola Renewables and Groton Wind strongly believe that your letter does not in fact reflect the progress we have made to date on issues pending before the (Site Evaluation Committee), or the accuracy of the ongoing conversations with the state Fire Marshal’s Office, public counsel and the other interveners in this proceeding,” Iberdrola’s Paul Copleman wrote.

Groton Wind, which produces 48 megawatts of electricity, received its operating license in 2011. It went online in December 2012. But since then, the company has been dealing with complaints from the fire marshal, abutters and others.

The complaints, some of which were investigated and supported by the Attorney General’s Office, are the subject of ongoing hearings by the siting committee. The committee has told Iberdrola it may revoke its operating license for Groton Wind at the close of hearings this spring.

During construction of the Groton facility, the company made changes to its plans, including relocating the operations and maintenance building. It has said it followed state law by filing the changes with the state Department of Environmental Services and with the support of the town fire chief.

The fire marshal and the Attorney General’s Office have said the changes were not done lawfully and were made without consent or review of the Fire Marshal’s Office and other state agencies.

Forrester cited the additional 22 violations of state codes that Anstey noted in a statement to the SEC last month.

“The majority of the violations enumerated in the fire marshal’s testimony (provided to the committee on March 21 of this year) remain outstanding, and there is little indication that any efforts are underway to change course. As a matter of public safety, this is of great concern to me and the communities I represent,” Forrester wrote.

But Iberdrola officials say they have been acting diligently to reach settlements with complainants.

“We have facilitated a site visit for the fire marshal in order to identify and remedy all open concerns with building codes,” Copleman said. “A majority of the issues raised during the building inspection have been corrected and are pending the fire marshal’s inspection of these items. Issues requiring third-party contractors are in progress and being closely managed to ensure timely completion.”

dseufert@newstote.com


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