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Firm Scraps Proposed Grafton County Wind Farm

Grafton — The developer of a proposed 23-turbine wind farm southeast of Cardigan Mountain has scrapped the project because of an unfavorable political and regulatory climate in New Hampshire, the project’s developer said Tuesday.

The Wild Meadows project, which originally would have included about a dozen wind turbines in Grafton, was scaled back last year to the towns of Danbury and Alexandria, N.H., but would have been visible from parts of Grafton and atop Cardigan Mountain.

In February, developer Iberdrola had said the $150 million project was temporarily on “pause” while it worked on outstanding issues at a 24-turbine farm in Groton, N.H. At the time, company spokesman Paul Copleman said the company remained committed to Wild Meadows.

“While we continue to make significant progress resolving various outstanding issues at our Groton wind farm, our experience with that situation combined with the current political and regulatory climate in New Hampshire leave us no choice but to end our efforts to develop and invest $150 million at the potential Wild Meadows wind farm,” Copleman said Tuesday in a prepared statement.

Wild Meadows had called for 492-foot-tall turbines. New Hampshire officials tout such projects as important steps toward generating 25 percent of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2025.

The project was opposed by some groups that say wind power is not an economical answer to the region’s power challenges and would ruin the state’s natural beauty.

The Wild Meadows project originally called for turbines to be built in Grafton, but Iberdrola scaled those back, cutting the project size by about 40 percent, in the face of strong opposition last year from Grafton residents.

“I’m ecstatic,” Grafton resident Cindy Kudlik, who opposed the project, said Wednesday. “This is what we worked for from the first time they announced they were going to come and invade our towns.”

Along with the impact on views and habitat, Kudlik said she was concerned about the access roads and other infrastructure such wind projects require.

Kudlik also said Iberdrola appeared to have been influenced by passage of a “rights-based ordinance” passed at Town Meetings in Alexandria, Danbury and Hebron this spring, mirroring a measure passed at Grafton Town Meeting in 2013.

The ordinances essentially say that the “rights of people to protect their natural environment trump the rights of a corporation to destroy it,” she said.

Iberdrola has said in the past that power generated by Wild Meadows would have been sold mainly to to Nstar, a Massachusetts-based utility owned by Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire.

According to Iberdrola’s website, the project would generate enough electricity to power more than 90,000 average homes at peak production.

At the Groton plant, questions arose over whether the state’s Department of Environmental Services had the authority to allow a change in the location of a building and some turbines and if the state fire marshal should have been given building, site and fire protection plans before or during construction. The fire marshal also said automatic fire suppression systems should have been installed in the turbines.

Iberdrola also operates a similar wind farm in Lempster, N.H., visible from Newport.

On Jan. 13, the state’s Site Evaluation Committee said the Wild Meadows application was incomplete because, among other things, it didn’t contain the results of an ongoing study into the effect the turbines would have on birds and bats.

The company said at the time it would address the questions from the committee but later missed a 10-day deadline to submit new information.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. John Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com.