BERLIN – A proposal to build three 500-foot wind turbines on Jericho Mountains received planning and zoning board approvals last week. The developer has also reached an agreement with an abutter who had gone to court over the setback requirements for the wind turbines.
Jericho Power LLC told the city it hopes to pour the foundations and secure the rock anchors before the end of the year. In her presentations to the zoning and planning boards, Lindsay Deane of Jericho Power said the economics of the $18 million project depend on receiving federal investment tax credits. To be eligible, she said the project must begin construction before Jan. 1, 2014.
The total capacity of the proposed project is 8.55 megawatts. Deane said the company has long-term agreements to sell the power and renewable energy credits to New England Electric Cooperative and a municipal entity.
All the federal and state permits are in place. Deane said Jericho Power is awaiting the results of an interconnection study by Public Service of N.H. and ISO-NE, which manages the regional power grid.
The proposed wind farm has a long and complicated history. In 2006, Christian Loranger installed three small wind turbines on the site. He had technical problems and two of the turbines were vandalized. Two years later, the 135-acre site was sold and the turbines removed.
David Brooks of Jericho Mountain Wind entered into an agreement to purchase the land from Loranger. In 2009, Brooks received planning board approval for four turbines at a maximum height of 400 feet. The zoning board approved a variance for a fifth turbine at 500 feet. But Brooks could not arrange the necessary financing and eventually Jericho Power took over as project developer. Jericho Power is a subsidiary of Palmer Management Corporation of Cohasset, Mass. – a venture capital firm that has developed two small wind projects in Massachusetts. Jericho Power worked with the N.H. Business Finance Authority on obtaining renewable energy credits for the wind farm.
This January, the planning approved amending its 2009 site plan approval to allow Jericho Power to install three 500-foot turbines. The zoning board also agreed to amend its original variance to reflect the new proposal.
Abutter Allen Bouthillier appealed both decisions to the zoning board, arguing the wingspan of the turbines would adversely affect his ability to develop a wind farm on his property. The zoning board modified the setback to 200 feet. Arguing the setback was insufficient, Bouthillier appealed to Coos Superior Court. The court ruled largely in Bouthillier’s favor and remanded the issue back to the zoning and planning board.
The planning board took up the proposal at its monthly meeting Tuesday night. Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme told the planning board the city attorney recommended starting the process over and going back to the original 2009 decisions. As a result of the court decision, Laflamme said the city would be using the standard 25-foot setback for rural residential zones. But in the case of the wind turbines, the setback will be measured from the tip of the blade and not from the base of the turbine. Deane said the closest tower to the property line would be 206 feet and the furthest would be 516 feet.
Both city boards were presented with an agreement signed by Bouthillier and Jericho Power that Bouthillier would not contest the latest proposal.
The planning board approved the amended site plan with the condition that the Jericho Power must work out an agreement for legal access to the site and file the agreement with the planning board.
The zoning board voted to amend both the 2009 variance and special exception it granted to Jericho Mountain. The number of turbines was reduced to three at 500 feet in height with the setback 25 feet from the blade.
Laflamme updated the city council on the wind farm proposal at its meeting Monday. Mayor Paul Grenier asked who is ultimately liable if the project fails or is abandoned. He noted Jericho Power is leasing the land.
Laflamme noted the planning board approval stipulates Jericho Power will negotiate a decommissioning plan with the city attorney to cover the removal of all structures and returning the site to its current conditions. The negotiations will determine if Jericho Power will post a bond, letter of credit, or insurance policy.
Grenier said he expects Jericho Power will meet with the council at some point to discuss property taxes or a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes. He said the city will require an appraisal before agreeing to any property tax agreement.
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