CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Split between whether wind is a viable renewable energy source or a redundant eyesore, New Hampshire's House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected a temporary ban on new wind turbine and electric transmission projects like the 187-mile power line proposed by Northern Pass.
The bill would have put a halt to energy projects until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan sometime next year. Moratorium supporters argued the state should wait until two studies are complete: One is reviewing the process followed in selecting sites for the projects, and the other is expected to create a comprehensive energy plan.
The House voted 194-148 on Wednesday to defeat the measure.
Moratorium opponents cited the same studies as the proper ways to make decisions about the state's energy future. They also argued even a temporary halt would hurt efforts to attract new businesses.
William Haber, a Strafford Democrat, said the moratorium wasn't needed because current regulations show the state already considers each project carefully.
State officials have proven they are "quite capable of rejecting a wind farm based on criteria in legislation that already exists," Haber said.
And Robert Backus, a Hillsborough Democrat, said it's the wrong time to slow down renewable energy development.
"Wind energy has a lot going for it," he said. "Every electron produced by a turning blade is one that doesn't have to come from a more dangerous and more polluting source."
A moratorium, he said, "sends up a big sign: Not only is New Hampshire anti-wind, it's anti-business."
The issue comes as the state aims to get nearly 25 percent of its power from renewable sources like wind, solar and water by 2025. The Spanish energy giant Iberdrola Renewables has a proposal for 23 wind turbines in Danbury and Alexandria that, if approved, would give the company three wind farms in New Hampshire. It already operates turbines in Groton and Lempster.
The state is also considering the $1.4 billion Northern Pass project, with supporters cheering the jobs and renewable energy it could bring and opponents decrying it as a blight on the landscape.
Moratorium supporters questioned the worth of wind as a reliable contributor to the region's energy grid, pointing out that even when turbines are turning, a backup energy source is required in case the wind ebbs. They also worried that dotting the state's scenic ridgelines with windmills would be ugly and turn off would-be tourists.
Rep. Herbert Vadney, a Meredith Republican, scoffed at the notion of wind as a "savior."
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "Quite simply, wind is an incredibly expensive way to make a very small impact on carbon emissions."
Rebecca Brown, a Democrat from Sugar Hill, argued that the moratorium was less about wind than it was about making sure the state has the right regulations in place to evaluate projects and determine where and how to build power plants and transmission lines. The state is currently reviewing those rules and revisions are expected in 2015.
"Good policymaking is like good carpentry: You measure twice and you cut once," she said.
Jack Savage, spokesman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, said they weren't surprised by the House vote. The society, which supported the moratorium, will keep pushing for a comprehensive energy plan.