Last month, New Hampshire state lawmakers quietly introduced a bill that would suspend further wind project development in the Granite State. More than a month later, that proposal is gaining considerable attention from both state representatives and local residents, some of whom claim that wind turbines have damaging effects on tourism and property values.
This week, the legislation was debated at a hearing held by the New Hampshire House of Representatives' Science, Technology and Energy Committee. According to local media outlet WMUR, hundreds of local residents showed up for the hearing to support the wind energy moratorium.
Wind energy proponents obviously have a different view of the bill, which would also place a temporary ban on the development of electric transmission line projects in the state. The New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, for one, says it opposes the legislation because it "sends a dangerous signal that New Hampshire is against a proven source of clean and renewable local power."
According to statistics from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), New Hampshire has approximately 125 MW of wind energy capacity online and another 256 MW of wind projects in the queue. Despite the state's relatively modest installed-capacity total, New Hampshire has ample potential for development, as the state harbors a wind resource of about 2.135 GW, according to AWEA.
One developer that has been active in New Hampshire is Iberdrola Renewables, which has two operating wind farms in the state: the 48 MW Groton project and the 24 MW Lempster project. According to Iberdrola spokesperson Paul Copleman, a wind power moratorium would only hurt the state's economy.
"We think the moratorium doesn't make sense for New Hampshire, in large part because of the tremendous local economic benefits that wind farms provide," he explains, adding that the projects provide millions of dollars in state and local tax payments and created hundreds of construction jobs during difficult economic times.
Even without a moratorium, New Hampshire already has one of the most challenging regulatory environments for developing wind projects.
"We've found that the current permitting process in the state, as led by the state Site Evaluation Committee – which brings together the input from a variety of state agencies – is one of the more challenging and thorough processes we've undergone anywhere in the U.S.," Copleman tells NAW. "Of course, any development effort also incorporates local and federal collaboration and oversight, too."
Iberdrola anticipated opposition to the Lempster project, as it was the state's first utility-scale wind farm, Copleman says, adding that the company engaged local stakeholders and interested parties to rectify concerns early in the development process.
A New Hampshire wind energy moratorium has the potential to affect Iberdrola, as the company currently has an 80 MW project under development in Merrimack and Grafton Counties.
The wind-moratorium bill has eight sponsors in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, all of whom are Republican. Therefore, it may lack the critical bipartisan support needed to advance.
As a result of the November 2012 election, the balance of power in the State House shifted in favor of the Democrats, who generally oppose the bill. Meanwhile, the State Senate holds a 13-11 Democratic majority, and recently inaugurated Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed her support for clean energy and environmental initiatives, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The legislation is due out of the committee by March 7.
Photo: A turbine spins at Iberdrola's 48 MW Groton wind project, located in Grafton County, N.H.
Credit: Iberdrola Renewables