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Two Views: Should New Hampshire suspend wind energy projects?

Should New Hampshire impose a moratorium on wind energy developments? That’s a question the New Hampshire House will be wrestling with in coming days.

The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee has recommended against the moratorium, but it was a split vote, 13-6. Here’s a look at the debate.

Democratic Rep. Robert Backus of Manchester, writing for the majority: The majority vote to deem this bill inexpedient to legislate is based on several factors.

First, two bills supported by the committee and now law have established processes, now under way, to review both the standards for project approval by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee and to create the first new state energy plan since 2002.

The majority believes these are the appropriate vehicles to address concerns both about the siting process for new energy projects, whether wind or another energy source, and the weighing of costs and benefits for choosing our energy options. These efforts are the appropriate venues to make decisions about New Hampshire’s energy future.

Second, New Hampshire has long stated its support for renewable energy in legislatively establishing a goal of achieving 25 percent of its electrical energy supply from renewables and in joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. A mandated moratorium on one available and expanding source of renewable energy, which produces no greenhouse gases, is inconsistent with these legislative goals.

Third, in a time when New Hampshire wants to attract new and emerging areas of business, a moratorium sends a not-welcome signal.

Republican Rep. Harold Reilly of Hill, writing for the minority: If passed, this bill would prevent construction of new wind generation projects until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan. Wind power is quickly proving how ineffective it is as a source of electricity and how resoundingly ineffective it is in reducing carbon emissions. Even with the small amount of wind power we are now theoretically capable of producing in New Hampshire, our wind sites are often being told to stop producing due to power fluctuations induced by the sporadic nature of wind power and the inability of the transmission grid to handle it.

Around the world many countries and states, e.g. Germany and California, that were early adopters of wind turbines are now decommissioning them, having found that ratepayer costs have skyrocketed, grid instability is very problematic and carbon emissions often are increasing as well.

Here in New England, our grid manager does not consider wind power as part of its base-reliable power and frequently curtails wind operations because of power inconsistency and transmission problems. Even when wind turbines are producing electricity, other more reliable sources, such as gas turbines, often are kept running (and using fossil fuels) just so they will be immediately available to make up for fluctuations in the wind power.

Further, fearing damage to our tourism-based economy, there has been a huge outpouring of opposition to adding more mountaintop industrial wind power in New Hampshire, particularly in the region near Mount Cardigan and Newfound Lake, a major area of our resort and tourism business.

We currently have two studies under way (and funded at $200,000 each, by this Legislature, this year): Senate Bill 99, a study of the Site Evaluation Committee and its processes), and Senate Bill 191 (establishing a state energy plan). We should . . . pass this bill for a moratorium on wind turbine plants and their electric transmission line projects and wait at least until those studies have been completed before allowing any further expansion of wind power in New Hampshire.

Legacy Comments3

How many of those voting against Wind energy and for a moratorium are committed to ALEC legislative support and the coal, gas and oil industries as well as the northern pass program. All who would misinform and manipulate facts. Against the best interest of NH. NH is in need of changes and jobs. As they stand against our best interest for the few outside interests they could be profiting from. NH should be leading everyone on renewables solar and wind energy. Oil Gas and Coal are poisoning our water and air and for the last forty plus years have done everything possible to continue their destructive agenda while they have robbed us blind.

Rep Backus' arguments and our outdated laws are apparently well intentioned, but wind power here in relatively-low-wind NH doesn't produce the emissions savings expected. Wind power does displace power from fossil fueled generators, but because wind is unpredictably erratic, fossil fueled generators must still be running in the background, ready to add power to the grid when the wind power declines, or even stops which it does as often as once a day. Cycling the backup fossil fueled plants produce as much or more emissions than leaving the most efficient fossil fueled plants running steadily, like they did before wind power was introduced. So no real emissions savings from wind here, and costs definitely increase from the wind plants themselves, Federal subsidies for them from our taxes, state subsidies from REC's paid by reatpayers, new powerlines or powerline upgrades, and running the backup powerplants. It's all pain for no gain. Conservation is far more cost-effective.

Rep Backus, the state of NH has already more than met its legislative mandate for Class I renewable energy. As a legislator you should know that. And you should also know that the energy and RECs are being sold to VT and MA to meet their renewable energy goals/mandates. While you stand in blind awe of these monster wind machines, the state of NH is quickly becoming the dumping ground for energy projects that no one else wants. A moratorium is needed just so our legislators can come up to speed on the consequences of their own policies. The public deserves at least that much.

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