A years-long debate regarding a wind energy proposal in Antrim continues.
And, once again, the fate of the nine-turbine farm on Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain is in the hands of the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.
Committee members have heard eight days’ worth of testimony, proceedings that began on Sept. 13 and have continued over the course of three weeks. Another round of hearings will occur between Oct. 18 and Oct. 20.
“We will finish taking all of the evidence and then the committee will deliberate,” said Pamela Monroe, administrator for the state’s SEC.
Jack Kenworthy – head of development for Walden Green Energy, the parent company of Antrim Wind Energy LLC – said the company has provided “extensive” testimony to the committee since the proceedings began.
“We have presented the entirety of our application, testified at the hearings and have been cross-examined,” Kenworthy said. “We are really at the point where Antrim Wind has completed presenting its case and its witnesses. Now other witnesses from other parties will start testifying.”
The hearing on Monday Oct. 3, which was held in Concord, consisted of testimonies from about 30 members of the community who spoke out in favor or opposition of the proposal, Monroe said.
Kenworthy said the remaining three hearings will largely consist of testimony from other parties, including abutting or non-abutting landowners, and organizations like New Hampshire Audubon.
State regulators rejected the proposal in 2013 due to aesthetic impact on the area, that is, ruining the view of the landscape. The turbines will be visible from various points in town, and more specifically from Willard Pond, a wildlife sanctuary.
Since the project was rejected, Antrim Wind has amended its original proposal. It has eliminated one wind turbine, lowered others to mitigate visual impact, and added conservation land acres to the package.
But those changes aren’t substantial enough to sway some Antrim residents, some who remain opposed to the proposal.
“The changes are absolutely minimal,” said Antrim resident Richard Block. “They removed the turbine that was the least visible and have only incrementally lowered the height of the others. Everything else is almost identical. The visual impact from the project should be almost identical to what it was.”
Block has spoke in oppostion against the project since its inception more than seven years ago.
If the project goes through, he said, he will look out his kitchen window and see five trubines across Tuttle Hill. The visual impact paired with increased noise levels from the rotating blades are just two of the reasons he opposes the project.
“My wife and I realized and have decided if this project is approved, there is absolutely no way we can reside in our home. It would be an unacceptable change to what we have here. We just retired and we were hoping to quietly live on our acres, but that will not happen if this project goes through.”
“We may be forced to abandon our house,” he said as a worst-case-scenario.
He remains optimistic that SEC will strike down the proposal again, although nearly every member who sits on the board has changed over since the last time it voted on the project.
With several rejections and years’ worth of delays, questions regarding Antrim Wind’s dedication to the site loom. Kenworthy said its the site’s proximity to a major road and a nearby transmission line that make the area desirable.
The project also has widespread support among the town officials, said John Robertson, select board chair.
“The project has received an overwhelming positive response,” Robertson said.
Personally, he said, he supports the project.
“People say it’s only nine turbines and it’s hardly going to make any impact (to the amount of energy the state produces),” Robertson said. “But I think we have to start some place. We have got to stop using up all of our non renewables.”
The state has a goal of generating 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025. As it currently stands, Robertson said, it’s “not even close” to meeting that goal.
Projects like these would move that needle, he said.
SEC is required to make a decision on the matter by Nov. 30, although Monroe said it is possible that date could be extended.
“We are trying to hit our date,” Monroe said.