ANTRIM – There are always two sides to a story.
As far as the Antrim Wind Energy project is concerned, residents say it will either bring clean energy, industry and economic benefits or become a noisy eyesore for its neighbors.
Residents got the opportunity to chime in on a reprisal of the project during a public information session hosted by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee in Town Hall Wednesday night. The hearing, which is part of the process to gain approval for the project from the state’s siting committee, had both proponents and opponents of the proposed wind farm speaking up.
“It is absolutely essential that we dramatically reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and wind energy is one way to do that,” said Benjamin Pratt of Antrim, speaking in favor of the project. “I understand and respect the concerns some people have to the introduction of wind turbines. However, these concerns pale in comparison to the effects of global warming.”
But some of those who would have a direct impact from the turbines voiced their own concerns. “We abut the project,” said Barbara Burwick of Antrim. “I saw the [meteorological] tower every morning when I looked out the window,” she said, referring to a temporary tower set up to record wind measurements at the project’s inception. “I selfishly don’t want it. I realize that it will generate the town a lot of money, but this will impact our life.”
The project is a revision of a similar proposal brought by Antrim Wind Energy in 2012, which was ultimately rejected by the SEC on aesthetic concerns. Still sited along Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain, Antrim Wind’s new proposal eliminates one tower, making a nine-turbine farm instead of 10, and shortens the next closest tower to Gregg Lake to alleviate some of the visual impact. The towers were also switched to a model that is smaller and less noisy. Antrim Wind is also offering additional mitigation, including conserving 100 acres of the surrounding area and a payment of $40,000 to improve recreation activities and aesthetics at the Gregg Lake Recreational Area, and a $100,000 donation to the New England Forestry Foundation to acquire new conservation lands.
The project will generate 28.8 megawatts of electricity for the state’s power grid.
The wind farm has been a divisive issue, with the town’s Select Board in support of the project and residents split. The town failed to pass a large-scale wind ordinance twice during the project’s initial proposal, with wind farm proponents saying the codes were too strict, and opponents saying they were too lax.
That split continued to be apparent on Wednesday, as residents spoke both for and against the project.
Most of those in favor spoke about the global benefit of clean energy investiture.
“This is the best example of think global, act local, I’ve ever seen,” said Tim Perry of Antrim.
Others voiced the oft-heard concerns of noise, property values, shadow flicker and view impacts, which were core arguments before the SEC the first time around.
“I don’t think this project has changed dramatically,” said Elsa Voelker of Antrim. “Fifty percent of this town is going to be hearing these turbines in the winter, when there’s no trees to block the noise or view.” Voelker said that she was in favor of clean energy, but suggested that solar panels are a more viable alternative.
The SEC will hold another joint public hearing on Feb. 22 at the Antrim Town Hall. The deadline to submit a request to intervene in the proceedings is due to the SEC by Friday. The SEC is required to render a final decision in the case by Nov. 3.