By Rebecca T. Dickson
Union Leader Correspondent
The company proposing a controversial wind farm on Lempster Mountain has filed its application with the state Site Evaluation Committee.
The action marks the first step in the evaluation process for what could be the first major source of wind power in New Hampshire and one of the first new wind power sources in New England in more than decade.
In July, the SEC said it would review the plan, simultaneously rejecting the developer’s request for a speedy review. The state’s involvement will add paperwork and delays to the start of construction, which developer Community Energy Inc. fears may cause it to miss up to $15 million in federal tax credits.
The state committee unanimously voted to oversee the project after residents and town officials petitioned it to do so.
Lempster, a town of about 32 square miles with roughly 1,000 residents, is one of a handful of New Hampshire towns that does not have zoning regulations.
That means the Pennsylvania-based CEI only needed a standard building permit for its 400-foot turbines, targeted for 25 acres on the mountain.
The permit was granted in July 2005. But the lack of zoning is what prompted the town to request a state review.
The SEC said July 6 that it will oversee the permitting from all state agencies for the project, and will examine the company’s financial and managerial competence to operate the wind farm.
Yesterday, Jeff Keeler, director for Community Energy, said the application filed Aug. 29 includes more than 700 pages (weighing 10 pounds), and took nearly two months to compile, much longer than originally anticipated.
The SEC examines energy projects, but has never reviewed a renewable energy project before. Typically, it oversees larger-scale power facilities, such as the Seabrook nuclear power plant. This also marks the first time the petition process has been used to trigger such a review.
Keeler said CEI hoped to break ground on the project this fall and complete it in time to qualify for federal tax credits that expire at the end of 2007.
With the state’s review process now in place, the company may have an aggressive schedule to meet in order to get the turbines running by that deadline, he said.
State law allows for a nine-month review process, which CEI says could cause crucial delays in construction of the $40 million project.
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