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June 05. 2014 8:05PM

Wind farm opponents set to hold victory parties over Iberdrola withdrawal

ALEXANDRIA — Opponents of proposed wind farms in the Newfound Lake-Cardigan Mountain region will be holding victory parties next weekend because Iberdrola Renewables has withdrawn from its proposed $150 million Wild Meadows wind farm proposal.

The parties, which are by invitation only, are to celebrate what opponents see as their defeat of the Spanish wind-energy developer, which filed an application for the plant with the state’s Site Evaluation Committee in December but announced last week that it was withdrawing.

“There was a time right after Iberdrola filed that people were feeling a bit defeated or more skeptical of our chances to win. I said, ‘Not only will we keep Wild Meadows free of turbines and win this fight, but I’ll throw the party when we do!” said Cindy Kudlik of Grafton, who is holding a party next Saturday.

New Hampshire Wind Watch, a group that formed in opposition to the project, will hold its Wild Meadows Victory Celebration on Sunday, June 15.

A spokesman for the Spanish wind-energy giant confirmed last week that the company has withdrawn plans for a 75.9-megawatt, 23-turbine wind farm originally designed for the towns of Grafton, Alexandria and Danbury, but later confined to Alexandria and Danbury.

Company officials said the plant would have produced enough energy to power about 30,000 average homes a year — up to 90,000 homes per year at peak production, while providing significant financial benefits to taxpayers in both towns.

But Iberdrola officials decided to withdraw the proposal, said spokesman Art Sasse, because of “the current political and regulatory climate in New Hampshire.”

Sasse did not elaborate further, but the Wild Meadows project drew significant opposition locally from the WMLF and New Hampshire Wind Watch. In announcing the project’s withdrawal, company officials also mentioned their ongoing hearings and compliance plans with state officials, who have threatened to pull the company’s Groton Wind plant operating certificate because of permitting issues.

In announcing the Wild Meadows withdrawal, Sasse said the company continues “to make significant progress resolving various outstanding issues at our Groton wind farm,” which include complaints about the Groton plant’s construction and building permits from state officials, and additional requirements by the state Fire Marshal.

State officials say the company is, at present, meeting the deadlines of a compliance agreement reached between the Fire Marshal and Iberdrola officials. There are several remaining outstanding issues to be resolved, including the company’s decision to relocate its Operations and Maintenance Building without proper state authority, said Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth, who is representing the public in the SEC’s ongoing Groton Wind hearings.

Wind Watch president Lori Lerner dismissed the company’s stated reasons for withdrawal from Wild Meadows, calling them “disingenuous.”

“Iberdrola is responsible for its own difficulties,” she said. “We have good reason to believe Wild Meadows suffered several fatal flaws including, for example, the company’s failure to secure all of the land needed to construct the towers and transmission.”

Lerner also cited the company’s problems at its Groton plant, which have “called into question Iberdrola’s technical and managerial capabilities,” she said.

“As Iberdrola works to avoid having its permit revoked, it should not be surprised by state and local officials exercising greater caution,” she said.

Some are still worried that the area could be chosen again by a wind-energy developer, perhaps even Iberbrola, as a site again.

“We plan to continue our legal and technical efforts to oppose (Wild Meadows) should Iberdrola decide to file a new application with the Site Evaluation Committee,” said Peter Silbermann spokesman for the Wild Meadows Legal Fund, a group opposed to the Wild Meadows proposal.

dseufert@newstote.com


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