Article on area warrants aims to gather support for studying offshore wind development
The efforts of Seacoast residents to get New Hampshire officials to look at offshore wind as a possibility for powering the state have reached the Monadnock Region.
Alstead, Chesterfield, Marlborough, Rindge and Westmoreland will find a petition article on their March town meeting warrants asking voters to support New Hampshire joining Massachusetts and Maine to study the feasibility of developing offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine. The article proposes doing that by having each town where it passes write to N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu urging him to request that the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management form an intergovernmental task force to perform the study.
A fifth town, Peterborough, which has its town meeting in May, will also find the petition article on its warrant, said Patricia A. Martin, who was involved in getting signatures for the petition article in Rindge.
“The whole impetus for this is to make power more sustainable in the region,” Doug Bogen, director of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, said last week.
Referencing state and federal reports, he said there appears to be a enough wind power available in the Gulf of Maine to either run all of New Hampshire or significantly contribute to the state’s energy needs.
“This is not just about the Seacoast,” he said. “Unless you are off the grid completely, we all use and contribute to our electric system as it is.”
In 2014, the N.H. Legislature passed a bill to establish a committee to study the development of offshore wind energy and other ocean power technologies.
After holding seven meetings, the committee released a report. The document included findings that wind resources off the state’s coast had the potential to generate significant amounts of electricity, and that the best place to develop offshore wind power appeared to be at least 3 miles from the Isles of Shoals.
However, the ocean is too deep in that area for attaching foundations of wind turbines to the seabed, and it’s likely floating platforms with the turbine assembly attached would have to be used, the report said.
The report stated that it made sense to work with Maine and Massachusetts to develop offshore wind as a regional resource.
The Seacoast Anti-Pollution League is a nonprofit, citizen organization working for a safe and sustainable energy future, according to its website.
During the past year, it has been working with communities on the Seacoast to pass resolutions in support of studying offshore wind. In addition, the organization’s staff has put out a call to other cities and towns asking their officials and residents for support, Bogen said.
The result has been the town council for Durham, and the city councils for Dover and Portsmouth approving the resolution.
In December, Rye selectmen passed unanimously a motion authorizing the board chairman to send a letter to Sununu endorsing the formation of a multi-state task force to study offshore wind potential along the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire, according to meeting minutes. However, the letter would also include a statement saying that, because Seacoast residents would face the brunt of the visual and environmental effects of an offshore wind project, the town should have a representative on the task force, the minutes said.
Besides Monadnock Region towns, the communities of Exeter, Hampton, Henniker, Hopkinton, Lee, Loudon, Merrimack, Nashua, Newfields and Nottingham have petition articles on their town meeting warrants asking voters to support the study of offshore wind development, Bogen said.
“The main thing is we don’t want people to get weirded out that this is some big commitment. This is just the first effort; the first step toward a sustainable future,” he said.
Martin, who is chairwoman of the Rindge Energy Commission, said with Seacoast residents being proactive about determining their energy future, Monadnock Region residents should support them.
The operating license for the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant is set to expire in 2030, and whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renews it, is yet to be seen, Martin said.
If Seabrook closes, it’s likely something will have to replace it to meet the region’s energy needs, she said.
“People of the Monadnock Region understand what it’s like to have an energy project thrust upon us without any consideration for our safety or our health,” she said.
In November 2014, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, proposed the construction of the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline to carry fracked natural gas from the shale fields of northern Pennsylvania to a hub in Dracut, Mass. via Southern New Hampshire.
The firm withdrew its application for federal approval for the project in May 2016, saying that not enough customers had signed up to buy natural gas from the pipeline.
State Rep. Marjorie J. Shepardson, D-Marlborough, and Alstead resident M. Chris Hansen collected signatures in their respective towns to get the article supporting studying offshore wind on their town meeting warrants.
Shepardson, who serves on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, said she is in favor of the development of wind energy, and believes it could help with reducing the cost of electricity in the state.
“Once a tower is built, it takes a couple of years to recover the investment, but after that, the wind being produced is free electricity,” she said.
That can last for about 20 to 25 years until the turbines need to be replaced, she said.
Hansen said he considers wind energy a good alternative to natural gas pipelines and bringing in hydroelectric power from Quebec, Canada.
The petition warrant article is just asking the state to look into offshore wind power development and there is no commitment, he said.
Other states, such as Massachusetts and New York are taking offshore wind energy seriously, and therefore New Hampshire should too, he said.
“We turn the lights on like everybody else, and the power has to come from somewhere,” he said. “It might as well come from a reasonable source rather than a polluting source.”
This article has been updated to correct the list of Monadnock Region towns with petition warrant articles asking voters to support New Hampshire joining Massachusetts and Maine to study the feasibility of developing offshore wind power in the Gulf of Maine.