Two Views: Should New Hampshire suspend wind energy projects?

Last modified: 1/25/2014 12:15:57 AM
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.

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