Antrim Wind Energy is hoping to resurrect a plan to build a wind farm in Antrim, nearly two years after the project was rejected due to aesthetic concerns.
The Portsmouth-based company, which is a subsidiary of Eolian Renewable Energy, is now proposing a slightly smaller 28-megawatt wind farm that calls for nine turbines instead of 10 and decreases their height.
“We have always felt the Antrim project is probably the best-sited wind project in the state of New Hampshire,” said Eolian co-founder and CEO Jack Kenworthy. “In this case now, we think it’s even better.”
Antrim Wind Energy has been in development since 2009 and initially proposed a 30-megawatt 10-turbine wind farm located on the Tuttle Hill ridge line in Antrim. In 2013, the state’s Site Evaluation Committee – charged with permitting large-scale energy projects – rejected the proposal based on its visual impact.
The SEC raised concerns about the scale of the project and the height of several of the project’s turbines, which at 500 feet would have been some of the tallest in the state. Many people in town supported the project, but it drew opposition from several abutters and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire.
Now, Antrim Wind Energy is proposing a wind farm that includes several changes the company hopes will alleviate concerns about the project’s visual impact.
The project no longer includes the 10th turbine, the tallest of the group and the one closest to Willard Pond. The height of the ninth turbine is also “significantly reduced,” Kenworthy said, to lessen its visibility from Willard Pond. Kenworthy didn’t say what the exact height of that turbine would be, but it’d be shorter than the other eight turbines, which would stand no taller than 495 feet.
“We feel very good about the project,” Kenworthy said. “We think we have addressed the concerns, and we look forward to bringing it back.”
Even though the project falls below the 30-megawatt threshold that triggers state oversight, the company has filed a petition with the SEC confirming it will again review the project. If the SEC takes on the project siting, the company plans to file a new application within the coming months. Kenworthy said he hopes the Antrim wind project is up and running before 2018.
New Hampshire is home to three industrial wind farms, but in recent months, the issue has become especially contentious. This past summer, Spain developer Iberdrola Renewables abandoned its plan to build a 23-turbine wind farm in the Danbury area. Known as the Wild Meadows project, it faced public opposition from people who said the wind farm threatened wildlife habitats, water quality, tourism and aesthetics.
Iberdrola, which already owns two of the three operational wind farms in New Hampshire, blamed its withdrawal on the state’s “current political and regulatory climate.”
Portuguese developer EDP Renewables said its Groton wind project, known as Spruce Ridge, is still alive. The 60-megawatt project would include 15 to 25 turbines. But the company doesn’t have a set time for when it will file for a permit with the SEC, said spokesman Adam Renz.
A 10-year state energy strategy released this fall said wind power has significant potential in New Hampshire but it is not fully utilized. According to the report, New Hampshire supports 171 megawatts of wind capacity, but could increase that figure by 2,100 megawatts of terrestrial and nearly 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind resources.
A legislative committee tasked with studying offshore wind recommended the creation of a task force to take inventory of the offshore potential, said Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat.
“We came to a conclusion it’s a gold mine,” he said. “There is a great potential sitting offshore. I think we want to position ourselves to take advantage.”
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