New Hampshire Towns Consider Wind Power

Big wind hasn’t found its way into New Hampshire yet, but it’s not for a lack of trying. UPC Wind Partners of Newton, Massachusetts has given three different presentations, one each in the neighboring towns of Gorham and Randolph, and one in Cambridge. A full-fledged wind farm isn’t in the company’s plan just yet. What they would really like to put up is an anemometer, data tower, to gather information first, UPC Spokesman Peter Gish said. But they wouldn’t put anything up without town permission.

Peterborough, New Hampshire – July 16, 2004 [] “One of the things we insist on getting up front is community support,” he said. New England is a contender for only one of approximately 20 sites the company is exploring in addition to the state of Oregon, and Canada. Northeast Project Manager for UPC Chris Swartley, who gave the presentations to the three N.H. towns, couldn’t give much more information on the company’s plans. None of the towns have made a commitment yet, but the presentations have at least caught the attention of officials in Gorham and Cambridge. “It’s intriguing to say the least,” Gorham Selectman Mike Waddell said. “There will be a big visual with this.” Waddell has attended all three presentations, and is a member of the town’s conservation commission, planning board and watershed council. He has been involved in town matters for the past 15 years, and said the last proposal for an alternate electricity source was for a nuclear power plant around 30 years ago. The UPC presentation Waddell attended proposed putting a data tower in the Gorham Town Forest, which would give turbines access to the winds of the North Country and close proximity to a high power transmission line. Costs for putting an anemometer weren’t discussed, but Swartley talked about a US$50 million plus project for the town, Waddell said. The town of Cambridge is unincorporated, so Coos County Administrator Suzanne Collins has represented the community for talks with UPC. A test tower is an idea the county is certainly interested in, she said, but there just isn’t enough information on the proposal yet. “There were an awful lot of questions ranging from aeronautical, to (the effect of) putting a light on top of a mountain that’s never had a light before,” she said. For old mill communities that have relied on power generation from the Androscoggin river, at least for the pulp and paper mills, the potential for an alternative source of electricity is tempting. Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) owns one 15 MW dam in Berlin, and one 2.2 MW dam in Gorham. PSNH feeds the power directly into the utilities grid, Waddell said, and a 115,000 V power line stretches along route 110 between Whitefield and Groveton. There are a total of 13 dams in the Gorham area, three of which are in the town. Power generation from all of the dams is 50 MW, Waddell said. A wind farm has the potential of supplying an additional 50 MW. Any decision on a test tower of wind farm would have to go through the paces of public input meetings and a final vote at a town meeting if the selectmen want to take it that far. But a positive vote would give UPC a corner on the wind market in Northern N.H. “The only people who really do anything with wind up in this area is the Mount Washington Observatory,” Waddell said. Attempts at having a turbine on the top of the mountain ran into trouble when the blades kept icing up, however, and eventually the observatory had to abandon plans to harness the wind power on the peak of the 6,288-foot mountain. If UPC was allowed to put up a data tower, and eventually a wind farm, Waddell said the company proposed to tie the turbines directly into the power grid. Before he forms his own opinion on a data tower though, he said he would like to talk with the water committee and UPC to see how construction would affect the area watershed for the Androscoggin and Peabody rivers. Presentations aren’t enough to give approval, and Waddell said he wants to hear more details before bringing the idea to a town vote. “They would need to convince the majority of the watershed committee that it’s worth letting them do the wind tower test,” Waddell said. Selectmen in the town of Randolph have decided not to support the idea of a wind farm. Randolph does border the town of Gorham, however, and it is uncertain whether the selectmen’s decision will affect any actions that Gorham takes. Reporters Note: Lyman, New Hampshire has also been approached by projects managers from UPC. A report from The Courier newspaper stated that some residents are already campaigning against the approval of a zoning variance that would allow UPC to erect an anemometer on privately owned land in the town.


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