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Let's not allow our Newfound area to turn into Tehachapi East

  • Published in Letters
To the editor,
We recently visited Tehachapi, CA. We had no prior familiarity with the area. As we were approaching Tehachapi at night, we drove over the crest of a hill and suddenly saw the entire landscape for several miles before us totally transformed. Hundreds of blinking, bright red lights lit up the sky and the mountain ridges, overpowering everything else in our view. Our first thought (only half-jokingly) was that we had made a wrong turn and were entering Las Vegas. When we learned the lights were wind towers, we had the sad realization that what we were looking at is what the Newfound Lake area could well look like if the wind power companies have their way.
We learned that Tehachapi is host to some 5,000 of the 15,000 wind towers in place in California, thanks in part to that state's generous tax breaks for this destructive and highly dubious source of energy. Imagine the visual and environmental impacts from 15,000 wind towers, then consider that they provide less than 5 percent of California's electricity. With investments like that, California's recent budget fiascoes are no surprise. For photos showing what these towers have done to Tehachapi's landscape, as well as videos and other information on the effects of wind farms and the treacherous maintenance problems they present (and the consequent neglect), google on "wattsupwiththat the reality of ca wind." The more we learn about wind power, its visual and environmental effects, and its comparatively miniscule energy contribution, the more amazing it is that we as a society are not only permitting its development, but facilitating it by supporting it with tax dollars.
The least we can do is to get it right in the Newfound region. It would be senseless to allow more and higher wind towers to devastate the natural beauty the area is renowned for, and in turn ruin its economy. The region can hardly be accused of selfishly opposing renewable energy sources, being the home already of two biomass plants, two hydropower projects and the existing 24-tower wind farm. So it's not a case of "Not In My Backyard." It's a case of "Enough Is Enough." We've already done more than our part in the way of sacrifices for renewable energy.
And this region is clearly not unique from a technical suitability standpoint. The wind power companies are fond of saying that wind-speed maps and similar data are only guides, not gospel. But when all such guides show the Newfound region as not unusually windy, one has to wonder about the developers' real motivation. N.H. Windwatch has several such guides on its website. Here's another: Of 284 zip codes in N.H. for which average wind speed data are available, the highest rank of any zip code in this area is 116 (zip code 03240 – Grafton). The 03222 (Bristol, Bridgewater, Alexandria) and 03241 (Hebron, Groton) zip codes rank 184 and 211. So the Bristol-Bridgewater-Alexandria-Hebron-Groton areas are well within the bottom half of wind speeds in N.H., and there are at least 115 locations in N.H. with higher average winds than Grafton. (Source: USA.com; google "nh wind speeds by zip codes.") Clearly, there is more afoot here than wind speeds. If wind were the only criterion for these companies, why aren't they pursuing projects on Mount Washington, one of the windiest places on earth, or in Franconia Notch, or elsewhere in the Presidential Range, or along the N.H. coastline, all of which have wind speeds far greater than the Newfound area? The answer, of course, is that they know they wouldn't be allowed there.
Another letter writer has accurately pointed out that Ed Cherian, the project manager for Iberdrola, one of the companies proposing additional wind farms in the Newfound area, stated at a public meeting last fall that they do not want to construct wind towers where they're not wanted. He was also quoted in a news report last September, saying, "our relationship with the town ... and the people ... that live here is critical. If the town said 'You know, thanks, but no thanks,' we wouldn't ... come here." So let's see how well they've been welcomed: Even after a glossy direct-mail campaign by Iberdrola, the tally was overwhelmingly against wind farms in every Newfound area town that voted on the overall issue last month (including Alexandria and Grafton, where towers are proposed). Moreover, the Newfound Lake Region Association, the selectboards of Bristol and Bridgewater, state legislators from the area, and the Conservation Commission of Alexandria, among other groups, have all urged a halt to wind farm development. The region has, in fact, said loudly and clearly, "Thanks, but no thanks." Despite Iberdrola's prior soothing assurances, however, there is still no indication that they, the other companies, or even New Hampshire's Site Evaluation Committee are willing to recognize that strong message. I urge all others in the Newfound area to make their voices heard, before it's too late and the Newfound region becomes Tehachapi East.
Jim Crawford