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N.H. Fire Marshall reaches agreement with Groton Wind farm

CONCORD — The Office of the Fire Marshall has resolved its dispute with Groton Wind, LLC and Iberdrola Renewables, LLC, the owner of a 24-turbine, 48 megawatt wind farm in Groton, over its failure to comply with fire and building codes.

The settlement came just weeks after Senator Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) joined a chorus of officials and residents calling for the state to order the facility to cease operations.

The agreement stipulates that except for the installation of fire suppression at the turbines, Groton Wind will bring the facility into compliance with the fire and building codes by May 1 or "immediately and without any demand from the state, shut down any building or structure not in compliance." At the same time, Groton Wind agreed to install fire suppression in "each and every turbine" before the start of fire season, defined as the first day Class 3 Fire Danger Day in Groton and its environs. Alternatively, if fire suppression is not installed, inspected and approved, Groton Wind agreed to shut down those turbines without it and mount a fire watch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at its own expense. If fire suppression is not inl place by June 23, an injunction prohibiting the operation of turbines without it would be filed in superior court.

The agreement was reached amid a series of hearings scheduled by the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), which in November issued a Procedural Order and Notice of Possible Suspension of Certificate of Site and Facility in response to allegations that Groton Wind was operating in violation of the terms and conditions of its original approval in May, 2011.

Earlier, in August, Inspector Ron Antsey of the State Fire Marshal Office informed the SEC that Groton Wind has relocated the operations and maintenance building and two of the 24 turbines without authorization. The building was not inspected and fails to comply with a number of requirements. In addition, the firm failed to install fire suppression in the turbines as required or to ensure that the width and grades of roads leading to the turbines complied with the fire code. Nor were the roads properly maintained. Antsey told the SEC that Groton had failed to provide a complete set of plans for the review and approval of the Fire Marshal Office yet proceeded to occupy the site and operate the facility without the requisite permits.

Groton Wind Antsey testified last month, "refused to comply with the lawful requests of the Fire Marshal and employed an apparent strategy of delay and ignorance to avoid compliance with the law." As of March 21, he said "most of the violations remain outstanding."

Throughout Groton Wind claimed that the changes to its original plan were approved by the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and questioned the authority of the Fire Marshal Office to oversee the project or to enforce the terms and conditions of its approval.

Writing to Tom Burack, commissioner of DES, Forrester noted that "the majority of the violations remain outstanding and there is little indication that any efforts are underway to change course," adding "as a matter of public safety, this is of great concern to me and the communities I represent."

Late last month Iberdrola announced that it has placed the planning for its controversial 23-turbine Wild Meadows wind power project in Alexandria and Danbury on hold pending a resolution of issues in Groton.

Groton Wind went online in December 2012.

 
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