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ANTRIM – The N.H. Attorney General’s Office recently weighed in on a state regulatory body’s investigation into complaints about Antrim Wind, expressing concern that the company that owns the turbines is not fully complying with orders regulating lights associated with them.
Senior Assistant Attorney General K. Allen Brooks wrote to the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee in his capacity as counsel for the public.
Since Antrim Wind began operating in 2019, residents living near the facility have complained about noise and the overactive lighting system near the turbines. The purpose of the lighting system, which is radar operated and mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration, is to alert approaching aircraft to the turbines’ presence.
Antrim Wind says it is in full compliance with the lighting regulations and committed to the proper operation of the system.
“Documents and correspondence with the NH Site Evaluation Committee, all published on the SEC website, show Antrim Wind’s ongoing work to maintain and upgrade the lighting system,” TransAlta, the company that owns Antrim Wind, wrote in a June 2 statement. “… The record demonstrates Antrim Wind’s continued effort since operation began in December 2019 to ensure aviation safety and diminish time the lights may be activated when the sky is clear.”
In 2017, the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee granted Antrim Wind a certificate – which is required by state law – that allowed the company to proceed with building the facility.
The subcommittee investigating the residents’ complaints against Antrim Wind agreed that the company was not in violation of its certificate, according to public meeting minutes on the Site Evaluation Committee’s website.
But in his letter to the committee, Brooks suggested Antrim Wind may not be fully acknowledging all aspects of its certificate.
Two conditions set forth by the certificate state that the lighting system must meet the FAA’s safety standards, and Antrim Wind must submit the FAA’s approval to the Site Evaluation Committee, Brooks wrote in a May 21 letter to the committee. The certificate also mandates that Antrim Wind “implement and operate” the lighting system.
It’s the ongoing operation of the system that Brooks highlighted in his letter as a key facet of the certificate.
While the lights are an important safety feature, they can have negative impacts on neighboring residents as they flash throughout the night, Brooks explained in an email to The Sentinel.
“During the original hearings,” he wrote, “Antrim Wind Energy claimed that it would address both issues by having the required lighting for aviation safety and by installing a system (ADLS) that would ensure that the lights only come on when an aircraft is in the vicinity to minimize visual impacts.”
In his letter to the Site Evaluation Committee, Brooks wrote that in order to comply with all conditions of the certificate, Antrim Wind must take responsibility for the lighting system’s operation and maintenance.
Terma North America Inc., the manufacturer of the lighting system, completed upgrades on May 31 to address how frequently the lights are triggered. However, Brooks wrote in his letter to the committee that he is concerned future issues may arise because of how he says Antrim Wind is interpreting its certificate.
Brooks pointed to Antrim Wind’s May 18 submittal to the Site Evaluation Committee, in which the company stated that the certificate requires Antrim Wind to meet FAA standards, and because it had, the facility is in full compliance.
“Although they are addressing the current problem, Antrim Wind Energy recently cited to the two conditions in their certificate that deal with aviation safety and stated that compliance with those conditions is the only thing that is required,” Brooks wrote to The Sentinel.
In his letter to the committee, Brooks wrote that “if this position is accepted, Antrim Wind is under no obligation to ever properly run [the lighting system].”
“TransAlta disagrees with statements that Antrim Wind is not committed to proper operation and maintenance of its turbine lighting system,” the company wrote in its statement. “In fact, as the public record reflects, Antrim Wind has always accepted that obligation.”
If residents have additional concerns about the lighting system, they can file complaints until the end of the year. On June 17, the committee investigating the complaints against Antrim Wind will hold a public meeting to discuss noise complaints.
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