The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee rejected approval of a proposed 10-turbine wind project late Thursday, but the company behind Antrim Wind Energy said it is still considering the options following the highly anticipated ruling.
Antrim Wind Energy, a subsidiary of Eolian Renewable Energy located in Portsmouth, had proposed a 30-megawatt capacity wind farm to be constructed on the ridgeline of Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain in Antrim. The SEC, which holds jurisdiction over the project, held public hearings that began in October to listen to pros and cons of the proposed wind farm, and concluded those hearings on Tuesday.
From there, the SEC reviewed the criteria necessary to develop a wind farm on the site. According to a statement from the SEC on Friday, one criterion failed.
Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area that belongs to the New Hampshire Audubon, and, according to SEC attorney Michael Iacopino, the committee was primarily concerned with the visual impact of the project.
“The subcommittee voted yesterday to not to go ahead with the project due to the unreasonable adverse effect it would have had on the area,” Iacopino said in a phone interview on Friday.
Iacopino said that the SEC was receiving written statements from residents and people voicing their opinion right up until the end of the day on Thursday.
There will be a written order that will be issued detailing the deliberations, and that written order will be the official order from the committee, depending on how soon the transcripts get prepared. When it does come out, it will be published on the committee’s website, Iacopino said.
An appeal process is available to members of the Antrim Wind Project, or other parties opposed to the committee’s decision.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the decision for a variety of reasons, but I think the decision was clearly a decision that was based solely on aesthetic impacts,” said Eolian CEO Jack Kenworthy in a phone interview on Friday. “I think this is a project that has a great deal of economic and clean energy benefits for the region, and had a huge amount of support in the town of Antrim. So we’re disappointed in that and we disagree with the decision, but in terms of options going forward, we’re going to have to wait to see what the written order says once we receive it, and we’ll make a decision at that time.”
New Hampshire Audubon Director of Conservation Carol Foss said in a phone interview on Friday that she is pleased with the decision not to go forward with the wind project.
“We’d like to express our appreciation to the SEC for their diligence in a long and complicated process,” Foss said. “It’s important to say that this organization supports appropriately sited wind energy, but felt this project did not meet that criterion.”
Francie Von Mertens, honorary trustee of the New Hampshire Audubon and member of its Sanctuaries Committee, with a special focus on the Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, wrote in an email on Friday that the SEC did spend a lot of deliberation time considering mitigation through terms or conditions, such as requiring land conservation elsewhere, but ultimately decided the impacts were too significant to mitigate.
The proposed wind towers would have stood nearly 500 feet from base to the blade at its highest point. They would have bee the tallest turbines in New England, impeding the view from the Willard Mountain and Tuttle Hill ridgeline.
Former Antrim Selectman Gordon Webber, whose name will appear for the same position on the election ballot this March, supported building the wind farm largely because of the benefits renewable energy would bring to the town.
“We need to move toward increasing our renewable energy sources,” Webber said in a phone interview on Friday. “And the same argument for these windmills goes everywhere – that people don’t want to see them. Everybody says they’re all for renewable energy, but they don’t want to see them. Well, then you can’t have them.”
Webber said that the visual impact was the sole reason the project got shot down.
“Quite frankly, it’s ‘I don’t care who has to see them, as long as it’s not me.’ That’s the attitude that these people have,” Webber said. “My issue is: you don’t own your view. You have a nice view, that’s great. But you don’t own it. I have a nice view in Antrim of the eastern skyline. At night, in the wintertime, every single night I see the lights of Crotched Mountain. They’re very, very bright. In fact, the whole southeastern horizon for me, I don’t see any stars because that mountain is so bright. Well, I also support the local ski area doing business, and I don’t own the view.”
Article IV, subsection C, of Title XII (Public Safety and Welfare) is what did not receive the necessary votes to pass from the SEC. It states, “[The project] Will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety.”
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