Iberdrola letter to Grafton outlines 2016 timeline for wind project; says it won’t build on a ‘nay’ vote

By Cynthia Prairie
©2015 Telegraph Publishing LLC

In a letter to Grafton residents sent just before Thanksgiving, Iberdrola Renewables, the Spanish energy company that hopes to build a wind farm with 28, 492-foot-high turbines in Grafton and Windham, has outlined its plans for next year that include a timeline on proceeding with the project and public education sessions. You can read that letter here.

The project is slated for property owned by Meadowsend Timberlands of New Hampshire that lies along powerlines between the two jurisdictions.

Liisa Kissel of Grafton Woodlands.

Liisa Kissel at a meeting of Grafton Woodlands addressing problems with wind energy.

Iberdrola said that “based on our current study timeline,” it expected an economic benefits package to be ready for public review and comment by the summer of 2016. The letter, signed by project manager Jenny Briot, also cautioned that further environmental studies may alter the plans for the project but that the number of planned turbines would not be increased.

Iberdrola also said that it expects it will be ready to present a final project proposal and updated community benefits package by the fall of 2016, with the intent of seeing a vote on the project in both Grafton and Windham in November.

The community benefits package likely would consist of an annual payment to each town based on the number of turbines each hosted. Early estimates are $285,000 to Grafton, which plans say would have eight turbines, and $715,000 to Windham, with 20 proposed turbines.

In an interview on Tuesday, Paul Copleman, communications manager for Iberdrola, said, “The package is open for discussion. It will be commensurate with and proportionate to other projects (in Vermont) and their sizes.” He added that money would also be put into the state educational fund.

Preliminary layout of the project with housing.

Preliminary layout of the project with housing.

Also in the letter was an assurance that Iberdrola would “respect the outcome” of a vote by the registered voters of the Town of Grafton on the completed project. Asked to clarify, Copleman agreed that Iberdrola would not build if the town voted it down. Asked about Windham’s  expressed stance against a previous wind project, Copleman said Iberdrola would like to give that town the opportunity to vote on this particular project.

In an interview Tuesday, Grafton resident Liisa Kissel, who is against the project, said, “I don’t think the letter told us anything new. It was a little bit of a puzzlement as to the purpose of the letter.”

She added that it did not answer one important question: Why Iberdrola had withdrawn its filing to connect to the grid. In late spring, Iberdrola had filed preliminary papers to connect to the regional power grid, but pulled those papers about a week ago.

Kissel said Iberdrola “said it was procedural and they would refile it. But it’s still withdrawn. … why isn’t Iberdrola explaining what is happening with their ISO filing? They haven’t come forward to the towns with that information. Why did they change from 96 to 73 megawatts and when will they refile?”

Copleman responded that the change in megawatts and the pulling of the papers  “has to do with matching the best turbine with the site, the wind and the wind study … It’s a multi-year process … there are a lot of factors” such as new technologies.

He added that Iberdrola expects to refile to connect to the grid this month.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Justin Turco says:

    My little town of 450 voted down a project by Enel on lands owned by Yale University, managed by Meadowsend Timberland that would have provided something around 500,000 dollars a year of other people’s money to our town budget. They originally wanted to build 60 turbines on three different mountains. In the end they scaled it back to 45 turbines on a 23,000 acre block of undeveloped contiguous forest.

    Conservatively, it would have required 13 miles of new roads in a place that currently has no roads. The project was hugely subsidized with taxpayer dollars. The plan was to form an agreement with utilities ahead of time to buy all of the highly variable, intermittent power. Regardless of when the power was made or demand….every drop would have to be purchased at a predetermined rate. Usually 2 to 3 times higher than what highly reliable, stable (24/7) power from Hydro Quebec costs. This is a problem because if you don’t know when and how much power is coming..you can’t shut down your coal plant. See the problem there? You end up paying for both.

    We just couldn’t imagine putting 18 wheelers on our high narrow ridgelines. The developer makes good neighbor deals with folks who border the project. They also find a person in the community who they think is well enough known to be able to sway other people in favor of the project. That guy has a horse in the race, (e.g. he will be the one plowing the roads when the project is built or providing security etc.) Some sort of carrot is being dangled in his face so that he will sell the project to his friends and neighbors.

    We fought hard with community education and when it came to a vote we voted it down by a very comfortable margin. The developer “Enel” packed up and moved on for now. Iberdrola is a Spanish company. They are the most highly subsidized company in the USA. How about that? We give more of our tax revenue to a Spanish developer than we do to a company like GE who hires huge numbers of Americans and actually builds products that work. Wind does not work and few people are needed to keep an industrial wind development operating day to day.

    My recommendation is say no to it now. If you are from Chester, jump on the bandwagon and support the little towns currently under attack by this Spanish giant. You might think you like big wind right now, but when it comes to your backyard…you will educate yourself, turn against it, and feel very lonely in the fight. Industrial wind is nearly useless to ISO New England, too expensive, kills birds, bursts the lungs of bats, ruins neighbor’s lives and fragments forests. Take it from a fellow native son of Chester who has done his homework – crush this project NOW.

  2. Rob Pforzheimer says:

    Don’t wait till Iberdrola tells you when to vote. Vote NO NOW and tell these subsidy sucking parasites to go away now, and spare your communities another year of lies from this Spanish conglomerate.

  3. Kathy Giurtino says:

    The residents of Grafton and Windham would be well-served to research Maine’s experiences with wind turbines and especially Iberdrola.

    In placing wind turbines on a ridgeline, considerable damage is done to the mountains when roads — wide enough to move the huge blades and other parts — are constructed, including erosion.

    Other problems include: depending on how the sun shines on the blades, the flicker can be disruptive for quite a distance; snow and ice buildup on the blades can be flung for surprising distances; bird migration paths don’t change even if a wind turbine is placed in it; and the power generated usually is shipped elsewhere.

    Is there a guarantee that when the turbines become inoperative or out of date that the removal will not become the problem of the community? Look carefully at any “promises.”

    Who actually will benefit from these turbines, financially and power-wise? Where are they made and how much fossil fuel is used to create, ship and install them?

    I would recommend that each voter do as much homework as possible before voting on this issue, including visiting sites where turbines currently exist as well as speaking with the residents of those areas.

    These issues are thoroughly presented on the web through YouTube and other sites.