BERLIN – A new proposal to develop three 500-foot wind turbines on Jericho Mountain last week received necessary planning and zoning board approvals.
The developer, Jericho Power, LLC, also received a declaratory ruling from the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee that the project will not have to go before that committee for review.
Jericho Power, a subsidiary of Palmer Management Corporation of Cohasset, has an agreement to develop three wind turbines on the 135-acre site owned by David Brooks of Jericho Mountain Wind Company.
Jericho Mountain Wind Company, back in 2009, received site plan approval from the planning board for four towers not to exceed 400 feet in height. The zoning board granted a special exception and variance for six towers – five at 400 feet and one at 500 feet in height.
Both boards last week amended their original approvals to allow Jericho Power to put up three turbines at a total height, including blades, of 500 feet. The approvals require Jericho Power to execute a decommissioning plan that will include removal of the towers, foundations, and utilities and returning the site to pre-existing conditions should the project cease. The company must negotiate either a bond, letter of credit, or insurance policy with the city attorney to cover the decommissioning cost.
In presentations to the city board and the SEC at its meeting in Berlin Thursday, Lindsay Deane of Jericho Power showed conceptual views showing the turbines will not be visible from the downtown area but will be visible from both Cates Hills and Androscoggin Valley Hospital. She explained the turbines would still be visible at the two locations at 400 feet.
Deane also reported on both noise and flicker studies that showed no impact on residential areas. She estimated the nearest house is about a mile from the turbines.
Deane presented the SEC with a three-page printout of the federal, state, and local permits required for the project. The project has Federal Aviation Administration approval for the turbines and has filed for approval from both Public Service of New Hampshire and ISO-New England. The project also requires an access easement from the state to go through Jericho Mountain State Park but in exchange, the state will be allowed to maintain 2.5 miles of snowmobile trails on the wind farm property.
Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital, said right now the plan is for three 2.5-megawatt turbines. He said the turbines will not exceed 2.85 megawatts for a total capacity of 8.55 megawatts.
He said Jericho Power has a power purchase agreement to sell some of the power generated by the project to New England Electric Cooperative and is looking to enter into a second agreement. Plans are for the project to connect to the PSNH transmission system at Route 110.
Lindsay Deane said the project has been awarded financing although she noted time is a factor because of federal incentives. The company hopes to have the turbines installed by the end of the year.
There was concern expressed from one abutter, Allen Bouthillier of Lancaster, asked the planning board to table the issue for one month. Bouthillier, who owns 850 acres on Jericho Mountain, said he is concerned the Jericho Power project would interfere with his plans for a wind farm on his land. He said he has hired a consultant to study the issue but the results will not be available for several weeks. He said the two parties had been working jointly and he had shared data from a meteorological tower on his property with Jericho Power.
Lindsey Deane said the data showed both projects would impact the other in terms of wind loss. She noted Bouthillier’s property does not face the predominant wind direction.
“It’s just going to depend on how the wind blows,” she said.
Bouthillier also argued there was an agreement with Jericho Mountain Wind Company that the towers would be 120 feet from the westerly line of its property. City Planner Pamela Laflamme said the 2009 planning board approval specifies a 100-foot setback around the perimeter.
Gordon Deane said Palmer Capital has financed $2.2 billion of alternative energy projects throughout the country. The list includes small wind projects in Scituate and Fairhaven, Mass., which provide power to the local municipalities.
In its request to the SEC, Jericho Power noted that the committee has jurisdiction over renewable energy facilities greater than 30-megawatts but can choose to exercise jurisdiction over any project down to 5 megawatts. Noting the Jericho Power project falls under the 30-megawtt criteria but is over 5 megawatts, the company asked the SEC to find that a consolidated review and permitting through the SEC is not warranted. The company noted the project is relatively small and is subject to local and state regulations.
After hearing over an hour of testimony and questions, the SEC voted 8-1 to issue a declaratory ruling that the project does not warrant SEC review. SEC Chair Thomas Barack, head of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, however, noted that the public could petition the commission to consider jurisdiction and bring the issue up for review again.
The 135-acre site on Jericho Mountain hosted the first wind farm in the state. Back in 2006, Christian Loranger constructed three 160-foot wind towers there. Loranger had technical problems connecting the turbines to the Public Service of N.H. power line and removed the towers after two were vandalized. David Brooks of Norwood, Mass
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