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N.H. wind project put on hold

A proposal for a 23-turbine wind farm in central New Hampshire is on hold as the project developer addresses issues at an active wind plant it operates.

In a statement released yesterday to the Associated Press, Iberdrola Renewals said it will “pause” the Wild Meadows project in Danbury and Alexandria while it works on outstanding issues at its 24-turbine farm in Groton.

Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman said the company is answering questions about the Groton permit, specifically whether the state’s Department of Environmental Services had the authority to allow a change in the location of a building and some turbines, and if the state fire marshal should have been given building, site and fire protection plans before or during construction. The fire marshal also maintains automatic fire suppression systems should have been installed in the turbines.

In a December filing with the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, the regulatory body that approves such projects, Iberdrola said it has followed permit requirements.

“Even though we’ve made significant progress resolving some outstanding issues at our Groton Wind Farm, we’re still devoting considerable time and effort toward dealing with those remaining challenges,” the statement said. “Due to those pressing responsibilities, and after discussions with local stakeholders, we’ve decided it’s best to hold off on moving forward on our estimated $150 million investment decision at Wild Meadows.”

Ronald Anstey, an investigator in the fire marshal’s office and section chief for engineering and plans review, said yesterday that the company is working with that office to address the concerns.

Copleman said the pause is temporary and the company will not abandon Wild Meadows.

Iberdrola also operates a similar wind farm in Lempster.

On Jan. 13, the state’s Site Evaluation Committee said the Wild Meadows application was incomplete because, among other things, it didn’t contain the results of an ongoing study into the effect the turbines would have on birds and bats. The company said at the time it would address the questions from the SEC but later said it would miss a 10-day deadline to submit new information.

Wild Meadows calls for 23 turbines, each 492 feet tall. State officials tout such projects as important steps toward generating 25 percent of New Hampshire’s energy from renewable sources by 2025.

The project is opposed by some groups that say wind power is not an economical answer to the region’s power challenges and will mar the state’s natural beauty and hurt tourism.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests unsuccessfully lobbied the SEC to delay reviewing the project until new regulations are drafted that dictate where and how energy projects are built. Those new rules are due next year.

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