The state will hold a public hearing Oct. 30 for a controversial wind farm proposed for 25 acres on Lempster Mountain.
Last week, the state Site Evaluation Committee accepted Community Energy Inc.’s application as complete, part of 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 unanimously voted to oversee the project after residents and town officials petitioned it to do so.
The hearing will be held at the Goshen-Lempster Cooperative Elementary School, 29 School Road in Lempster. Questions and comments will be accepted.
Before the hearing, at about 3 p.m., members of the state committee may visit the proposed site, weather permitting.
Community Energy has also offered residents who would like to see a windmill operation the opportunity to take a trip to their Bear Creek, Penn., facility. The bus trip is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 28.
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 Community Energy only needed a standard building permit for its 400-foot turbines, slated for 35 acres on the mountain.
The permit was initially granted in July 2005 and has since expired. But the lack of zoning is what prompted the town to request a state review.
The SEC said in July 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.
The application Community Energy filed on Aug. 29 includes more than 700 pages (weighing 10 pounds), and took nearly two months to compile, much longer than originally anticipated, according to company officials.
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.
Community Energy 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.
State law allows for a nine-month review process, which CEI says could cause crucial delays in construction of the $40-million project.
The company still needs various state permits. If the SEC approves the wind farm by the end of this year, construction could start no later than May or June 2007. That would keep CEI on track for the tax credits.
By Rebecca T. Dickson
Union Leader Correspondent
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