ANTRIM – The developer of a proposed wind farm is attempting to bring new life to the stalled project.
Antrim Wind Energy LLC filed a motion Monday for a rehearing, asking the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee to reconsider its decision to deny the wind energy facility a certificate to operate.
The company had planned a 30-megawatt facility with 10 wind turbines, each nearly 500 feet tall, on privately owned land near Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain. It now proposes removing one of the turbines and adding more conservation land.
Since 2011, the project has been under the review of the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, which oversees large alternative energy projects. In February, the committee denied the project, citing unreasonable adverse effects on the region’s aesthetics, especially on the Willard Pond area.
In its motion, Antrim Wind Energy, a subsidiary of Portsmouth-based Eolian Renewable Energy, said the committee must grant a rehearing because of new measures it proposes.
The company would eliminate turbine 10, the one closest to Willard Pond, and take out all the road and electrical infrastructure beyond turbine 9. That would reduce the project’s overall scale by 10 percent, according to the motion.
The company also agreed to permanently conserve about 100 more acres on Tuttle Hill, bringing the total conserved to 908 acres. The land is along the ridgeline and surrounds turbines 3, 4, 5 and 6. The town would manage the easement, for which Antrim Wind Energy paid $250 per acre to Charles S. Bean, according to paperwork with the motion.
During the hearing in February, the Site Evaluation Committee also was concerned with Antrim Wind’s ability to finance the project. The company says those concerns were unreasonable and it has since received letters of interest in the project from two financial institutions.
Antrim Wind also used much of its 55-page motion to refute the committee’s other concerns about and statements on the project.
It argues the project met all the aesthetic impact standards the committee required of previous wind projects, comparing the Antrim project and its effects on the region with ones in Lempster and Groton.
“The decision must be reheard and reconsidered because it flies in the face of (the committee’s) prior rulings on the siting of wind facilities, unfairly imposing new standards of review on (Antrim Wind Energy) that were not imposed on other applicants,” the motion states.
Antrim Wind Energy highlighted its agreement with the town of Antrim to give a one-time payment of $40,000 to improve the Gregg Lake area as compensation to any perceived damages to the scenery, and the company’s willingness to pay $40,000 to N.H. Audobon or another acceptable group should N.H. Audobon refuse the payment.
The $40,000 agreement was also used as a reason for Antrim to ask for a rehearing, which it did on May 15.
In an objection to the town’s motion, Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter C.L. Roth, who was appointed to represent the public in this case and recommended the committee deny the certificate, said the $40,000 isn’t a good reason for a new hearing. The payment provides mitigation for visual effects at Gregg Lake, but this was never discussed during deliberations or in the decision to deny the project, according to the objection.
Finally, Antrim Wind Energy states in the motion the committee’s decision to deny the project prevents an additional source of much-needed clean, renewable energy and has given veto power to a small group of residents in Antrim who oppose any wind project.
Many of those residents who oppose the project have joined together and spoken out against the wind farm, most recently objecting to the town’s request for a rehearing, saying the town’s motion doesn’t present new facts or evidence, among other things.
Last week, the Site Evaluation Committee suspended its order to deny the facility until it schedules a public meeting to review and decide on the motions for rehearing.
Antrim will hold public hearings on June 10 and June 24 to discuss the Bean conservation agreement offer. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. at town hall.
Selectmen will also discuss creating a new payment agreement with Antrim Wind Energy. Last month, a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement between the town and Antrim Wind was voided by a Hillsborough County Superior Court judge. The judge ruled the agreement had been created during illegal nonpublic meetings between the town and Antrim Wind Energy.
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