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N.H. Legislature considers new guidelines to regulate state wind energy

When Michael Marino built his house in Holderness almost 20 years ago, he had a 180-degree view of the mountains. Now during the day, he said, the view includes 23 windmills. At night, he sees 12 to 15 lights blinking atop the machines.

If the wind turbines had been there, “I would have never bought this property,” Marino said. “If you keep allowing these windmills to ruin our beautiful mountaintops, it is really a disgrace.”

Marino was one of many people who testified at a House hearing yesterday in support of a bill that would establish new guidelines for future wind energy projects. The legislation passed the Senate last month.

The bill would give the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, which is tasked with approving energy projects, a series of guidelines to address when siting new “large wind energy systems” that have a generating capacity of more than 100 kilowatts.

According to the proposed guidelines, the SEC would need to consider the effects of wind farms on homeowners, natural scenery, wildlife and the visual impact of the turbines within a 10-mile range, among other things. It also calls on wind projects to provide a fire protection plan and use the best available science and technology in construction.

Wind power has become a divisive issue in the state. Recently, several towns have voted to establish local rights to rule over renewable energy projects.

New Hampshire already has a few operational wind energy projects, including Granite Reliable Power wind farm in Coos County, Lempster Wind and Groton Wind. There are no wind projects currently in the siting process, said Timothy Drew of the state’s Department of Environmental Services.

The majority of residents and lawmakers who spoke at the hearing voiced support for the bill and raised concerns about wind power, including loud noise, decreases in property value and tourism revenue and destruction of the natural habitat.

“There may be a place for wind in New Hampshire,” said Rep. Suzanne Smith, a Hebron Democrat who said she has heard complaints from her constituents about the whirring sounds and vibrations of the turbines. But without the criteria, it is creating “frustrated residents, dissatisfied developers and an overworked SEC.”

Members of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, which hosted the hearing, raised questions about the size of wind farms regulated by the bill and whether the guidelines would serve as a way to block all future wind development.

It’s “not meant to be a moratorium,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican and the bill’s sponsor. “It’s meant to have some criteria in place for the SEC to judge whether (the wind farms) are in the public interest or not.”

Concord-based attorney Doug Patch, representing Wagner Forest Management, a company with ties to wind energy, said he worried the bill could act as a moratorium and that it could drive away developers.

Patch, along with a few other opponents of the bill, said this legislation overlaps with Senate Bill 99, which the Legislature passed last year calling on the SEC to adopt rules by January 2015.

“The language instructs the SEC to ‘address’ nine additional specific topics, many of which are highly subjective and which would be included in the SB 99 process,” he said. “For many of these nine, there is no guidance given and thus this bill serves to increase uncertainty rather than decrease uncertainty.”

Testimony on the bill lasted more than four hours, with representatives taking a break in between and coming back in the afternoon to accommodate more speakers.

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com.)

Legacy Comments9

People have very good reason to be concerned. In years to come the property values near these projects will plummet and the properties in the communities that ban these deadly eyesore turbines will escalate.

Windmills are a tourist attraction in Holland. Go figure.

By all means, lets outlaw individual windmills because why? Yes, that would be because government isn't making enough rules and why should someone have the option of putting a windmill on their OWN property anyway. After all what right do they have to find an alternative to the electric utilities, dam hippies! We don't want wind energy, even on a personal scale, we don't want Northern Pass, I am willing to bet we wouldn't want another nuclear plant or how about a coal fired plant with a smokestack? Might want to ask the folks in Allenstown that one. So what do we want, another state to supply us power so we don't hurt your property values. Yup, the NH way, find someone else to deal with an issue and let us benefit. "LIVE FREE (don't hurt our property values though) or DIE"

While I sympathize with the sentiment, I'll just gently correct one thing: The proposed regulations apply to large installations generating 100KW or more. It doesn't apply to a privately owned backyard turbine.

100KW is a small turbine. 100KW to 5MW systems are all under the jurisdiction of towns not the Site Evaluation Com. This bill is about taking away local control on the smaller systems and that is not right. Towns should decide on these smaller proposals.

Windmills are ugly and noisy if close to them. I can see them in a big open space as out West. In N.H. they are and will ruin out beautiful views. I would rather see the Northern Pass than multiple windmills scattered everywhere. We are too small an area to accommodate them.

I agree but there is no need to build either windmills or Northern Pass.

I thought you were a conservative, they always support business don't they. Or is it they always support business if it affects someone else? Really an informed stance.

Windmills are ugly and noisy if close to them. I can see them in a big open space as out West. In N.H. they are and will ruin out beautiful views. I would rather see the Northern Pass than multiple windmills scattered everywhere. We are too small an area to accommodate them.

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