ANTRIM – It’s all a matter of perspective.
When Tim Perry is kayaking on Willard Pond, he looks up at the ridgeline view and thinks of a day when he might see blades of a wind farm cutting through the air there. It’s not a prospect that bothers him.
“Aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder,” said Perry. “They’re not an eyesore to most of us.”
But for Barbara Berwick, who would see the wind turbines from a bedroom window that looks out over her backyard, the towers would ruin a much-loved view.
“It really will change our way of life,” said Berwick. “I used to sit out on the porch, look at the mountain, watch the clouds come over the hill. It was just really beautiful.”
The Antrim Wind farm has been a divisive issue in town for years. The project has been around for more than five years, and went through the state approval process in 2012, and failed to pass muster based on aesthetic concerns. But that has not stopped CEO Jack Kenworthy from coming back to the project, which he sees as a crucial step in wind energy development and may be used as a benchmark for other wind developers in the state.
The Antrim Wind site has unique properties, said Kenworthy, as it’s an ideal siting from a developer’s standpoint – though not all townspeople are behind the idea, the town government is amenable, and there is a strong faction of townspeople who are in favor. It also has existing transmission lines that the project could connect to deliver its power, meaning there’s no need to clear additional greenspace for a transmission line, and the site is located off an existing state highway, needing only a few miles of access road that Antrim Wind has agreed to remove after the project is completed.
If Antrim Wind cannot pass muster in the state, said Kenworthy, it will send a message to other developers that New Hampshire is not particularly wind-friendly.
So, despite the 2012 rejection, Antrim Wind is trying again, this time with one less tower, a smaller, quieter turbine design, and additions to its mitigation package.
Opponents of the project say it’s not different enough to merit a second go around with the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.
“The changes just aren’t that much,” said Elsa Voelcker, who lives a little more than a mile from the project. And while many of the projects proponents speak of the need for green energy, Voelcker questioned those benefits coming at the expense of siting a major industrial facility near the Willard Pond Wildlife Sanctuary.
“To me, it’s the fact that its a belt right across that wildlife area. We have to let wildlife move and interact with the habitat so that they can stay healthy,” said Voelcker.
Those who look forward to the project’s erection, say they are taking a more global view.
“These turbines are here for 50 years, and then they are going to be removed,” said Antrim resident Ben Pratt, of Gregg Lake Road. “Once they’re gone, they won’t have any impact on the landscape.” Pratt said that the state and the country needs to support green energy efforts, and the prospect of “not in my backyard” simply doesn’t hold up when there is a need to move away from fossil fuel. “I respect the reservations that people have,” said Pratt, “but considering the choices we’re confronted with and the potential unbelievable consequences, I don’t think those arguments stand,” said Pratt, speaking of global climate change. “I know there are people that don’t like how they look, and I guess I can understand that. But when I drive down Route 89 and see the prodigious plume coming from the Bow powerplant, and when I compare that to what people take to be the drawbacks of wind energy, they seem to be very mild.”
The SEC will hold a public hearing on Feb. 22 at the Antrim Town Hall on the project. The SEC is required to render a final decision in the case by Nov. 3.
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