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Support seen for wind farm; At hearing, many speak of benefit

ANTRIM – The future of a multi-turbine wind energy facility on Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain is once again before the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.

The current Antrim Wind Energy proposal is a variation of one rejected in 2012 by SEC. The wind farm would be sited in the same location, but the plan reduces the number of towers from 10 to 9, shortens one of the towers to reduce its visibility from Willard Pond, and offers additional mitigation packages, including a $40,000 one-time donation to the Gregg Lake Recreation area, a $5,000 yearly contribution to the Antrim Scholarship Fund, and $100,000 to a local land trust to purchase future conservation easements, in addition to the 908 acres of land originally earmarked for conservation.

While the 2012 application was turned down on the basis of aesthetic impacts to sensitive area landmarks, including Willard Pond and Gregg Lake, the company is trying again in hopes that the adjustments will carry the project through.

Supporters of the project were out in force during the Site Evaluation Committee’s public hearing Tuesday in the Antrim Town Hall – a mix of Antrim residents who spoke about the need to support alternative energy solutions and tradeworkers from the electric and construction worlds looking forward to the prospect of jobs. Of the 38 people that spoke at the hearing, there were three supporters to every one dissenter for the project.

Arguments for and against the project followed similar paths as in previous hearings. Those against it spoke about the possible impacts to the terrain and ridgeline caused by blasting needed to put in the turbines, and the disruption an industrial facility could cause to the large wild space that makes up the Tuttle and Willard ridges.

While several residents who spoke against the project said they were in favor of green energy solutions – some even speaking in favor of wind when it comes in smaller forms – several said the placement was inappropriate.

Fred Ward, a meteorologist from Stoddard, questioned the viability of wind in New Hampshire, suggesting that wind farms are inefficient at producing power continuously, and may cause surges if they all are activated at once. Francie Von Mertens, of Peterborough, also questioned the viability of the wind site, especially as Antrim Wind has declined to release wind data collected on the site on the grounds that its proprietary information.

However, many residents spoke positively of the prospect of wind towers in town.

Aesthetics, which was the deciding factor in the Site Evaluation Committee rejection of the project, still remains a concern for many. “The siting needs to be in balance with the aesthetics of the area,” said Loranne Carey Block, who spoke against the project at Tuesday’s meeting, calling the size of the project “grossly out of scale” with the low elevation of Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain and the surrounding terrain.

“I believe this is the right project at the right time in the right place,” said resident Wes Enman.

“The Antrim Board of Selectmen has been in support of this project continuously and unanimously since its inception, and we continue to be in favor,” said Select Board Chair Gordon Webber.

Several members of the public spoke about the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and applauded the wind farm as a step in the right direction of greater reliance on clean energies. “We have to start somewhere, and I’d like it to be here,” said Kathy Chisholm, of making the switch from fossil energies.