Plan for wind turbine park opposed by NH fire chief

The chief says his department does not have equipment necessary to fight a wildfire in the area


By Paula Tracy
The New Hampshire Union Leader

PLYMOUTH, N.H. — The town's fire chief opposes a plan to erect wind turbines in Groton because his department lacks the equipment to fight fires on the remote ridges of Tenney and Fletcher mountains.

Iberdrola Renewables Inc., a wind power company with headquarters in Madrid, Spain, wants to build 24 turbines on the ridge lines to the west of Plymouth to produce 48 megawatts of wind power annually. That would be enough to power 20,000 homes a year.

In 2008, the company built the state's first wind park, in Lempster. It is half the size of this proposed park.

The $110 million project is now before the state for permitting.

Houses at Eagle's Nest on Plymouth's Tenney Mountain would be the first residential area to be affected by wildfires from the park, said Fire Chief Casino Clogston.

Clogston said not only was it his responsibility to protect lives and property but also to ensure that his responders can do their jobs as safely as possible.

To do that in this case, he said, area departments would need two Type 6 brush trucks; two, six-person all terrain vehicles; six forestry high pressure portable pumps; and hose, helmets and nozzles to support the equipment.

The equipment, he said, would be divided between Plymouth and Rumney fire departments.

Clogston said he has made that request to Iberdrola, but has not heard back. Absent the equipment and necessary training for his crew, he said, he cannot support the wind park proposal.

Wind turbines have been known to fail and fall to the ground, sometimes resulting in fires sparked by chemicals used in the structure, according to media reports.

Wind companies monitor their turbines remotely and typically dispatch their local crews to the affected site, but local fire departments can have difficulty gaining access.

Under Iberdrola's plan, the company would purchase 24 Gamesa G87 turbines, each with a capacity of 2 megawatts. The turbines are made in Pennsylvania. Each tower would be 256 feet tall and have blades 139 feet long.

In his pre-filed testimony before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, the chief said he has met with the chiefs of Rumney and Groton, Ken Ward and Roger Thompson, respectively, and the forest ranger, Bert Van Dohrmann, to discuss the proposal and the effect a fire in those remote spots would have on their men, women and equipment.

"I believe the project will have an unreasonable impact upon public health and safety unless all of these issues are addressed to the collective satisfaction of the fire chiefs and forest rangers," Clogston said.

There has been opposition to this project, primarily from Rumney residents concerned about turbine noise and towers marring the landscape.

About 135 people attended a site committee hearing at Plymouth State University this summer. The committee has hearings planned this fall in Concord.

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