The approval of a nine-turbine, 28.8 megawatt wind project by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee late Monday afternoon is being received with mixed emotions.
Those in favor of the project see the approval as a victory after a seven-year slog. A similar 10-turbine project was first proposed in 2009, although it was struck down by the SEC in early 2013 due to the project’s aesthetic impacts. The company then amended its proposal, scaling the project back to nine turbines, lowering one of the units, and placing acreage into conservation, among other things, as a way to enhance the deal.
“We are pleased that the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee has approved this important project after careful deliberation,” Jack Kenworthy – head of development at Walden Green Energy, the parent company of Antrim Wind Energy – said about the ruling that was handed down on Monday.
He said the project will produce competitively priced renewable power and generate economic and conservation benefits for the region.
A news release sent out by the company said construction on the project is expected to begin in the second or third quarter of 2017. They say it will be operational in the fourth quarter of 2018.
But some who oppose the project are hopeful it will not be carried out despite the state’s approval and the company’s plans to move forward.
Lori Lerner, President of New Hampshire Wind Watch – an organization working to protect communities throughout the state from the impacts of wind construction – said she attended all of the adjudicatory hearings and deliberations, taking careful notes throughout.
Lerner said even though she was taking notes, she is waiting for the transcripts of all of the sessions and the written order to be made public. Once that happens she said she will scour the documents with a fine-tooth comb.
“New Hampshire Wind Watch, who was very active in the SEC rulemaking process, had a keen interest in how the committee applied its new rules in the Antrim Wind case,” Lerner said. “Unfortunately, what we observed raises serious concerns that several rules were arbitrarily ignored or even violated to the benefit the applicant. We will be reviewing the written decision closely before we announce our next steps.”
And while some are ready to fight the ruling, others are starting to picture what this will mean for the town.
Brian Beihl, who lives in Antrim, said he opposes the project because of the effect it will have on the land and the project’s mediocre siting. Now he is visualizing what it will mean to have these towers looming over the community.
“I have been thinking about how I’ll respond to this,” Behil said. “I’m an outdoorsman and I frequently hike in that area and I think the impact of this will really hit home when they start leveling the mountain tops to make way for roads and then they start building the turbines. I think that’s when the community in Antrim is going to look up and say ‘what have we done?’”
The project will span from Tuttle Hill in the north to the north flank of Willard Mountain, along three and a half miles of ridgeline. The project is being developed on private property void of any conservation restrictions and with complete private capital, according to Antrim Wind Energy’s website.
Beihl said the project will be constructed adjacent to one of the largest tracts of land in Southwest New Hampshire. Although the land is not untouched, he said, it’s currently wild, which will no longer be the case once construction begins. Instead on those 2,000-foot peaks there will be towers that stand a little less than 500 feet.
“This is no small thing,” Beihl said. “I don’t know that the townspeople in Antrim realize how large these are.”
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