This summer, Antrim Town Beach visitors had a prime view of the first three Antrim Wind turbines going up.
The project, which has a total of nine turbines across Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain, is on track to be completed and online by the end of August, Select Board Chairman John Robertson said.
“Everything seems to be right on schedule,” Robertson said. The Select Board expects to schedule a meeting to get a more specific review of the construction schedule this month, Robertson said.
Antrim Wind is owned by a subsidiary of TransAlta, which operates more than 20 wind farms and 900 turbines across Canada, the United States and Australia.
Selectman Mike Genest took a five-day trip to Alberta at the end of May to tour a TransAlta run wind farm and see the company headquarters and wind control center.
The trip made him feel secure about the future operation of Antrim’s turbines, he said.
“I was very happy to see their level of expertise,” Genest said.
When complete, the Antrim Wind project is expected to produce 28.8 megawatts of energy from nine turbines. TransAlta has already secured two long-term power purchase agreements for the sale of the energy.
So far, only three of the nine turbines have been completed, including the installation of the wind blades. All three are visible from the public beach on Gregg Lake, and can also be viewed from Route 9.
Genest said he’s been watching the progress of the turbines over the summer and said the visual impact “meets the expectations” set by the developer during the approval process.
Hope Thomas of Hillsborough said she was surprised by the size of the windmills, on a recent trip to Gregg Lake specifically to check out the development.
“You’re driving up the hill, paying attention to the road, and suddenly, they’re there,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the view is currently “pretty stark,” but said she believes in the benefit of renewable energy, and that for this project, the benefits outweigh the aesthetic impact. However, she said she understands the sentiments of those disturbed by the visuals, particularly those that live in the area.
Paul Hardwick of Antrim, a former resident of Gregg Lake, said he’s less concerned about the visual impact to the lake than other impacts of the turbines.
“We can get over the visual,” Hardwick said.
Hardwick said he was more concerned about the impact the construction of the turbines was having on the environment, and the possibility of the wind blades harming birds, particularly considering the proximity of the dePierrefeu-Willard Pond Sanctuary. Hardwick said the state should focus on water power for its renewable energy needs, as the state is rife with waterways suitable for hydroelectric power.
“I just don’t think what they’re doing is anything that the environment is going to endure,” he said.
Richard Block of Antrim expects to be able to see several turbines from his house when they are complete. While the turbines viewable from his property will be among the last completed, Block said the view from Gregg Lake realized all of his fears about the visual impact of the project.
“I was expecting the worst, and to me, it’s coming true,” Block said.
Block said he’s been making preparations to monitor how the turbines will impact the noise levels in his home, including purchasing an infrasound monitor, which measures low-frequency noise. He’s already monitoring the sounds in his home at all hours of the day and night, to create a baseline for when the turbines go online, he said.
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