Blog : Local Wind Farm Project Finds Green Partner

By Rich | Jul 9, 2015 | in

By Mark Quirk

The benefits of the Antrim Wind Energy project continue to grow, and this time the beneficiary is the New England Forest Foundation. It’s good timing for the new collaboration as the Antrim project currently is up for re-review after being tabled in 2013.

Portsmouth-based Eolian Renewable Energy has eliminated one turbine and significantly reduced a second to meet earlier requests presented by the state of New Hampshire. Supporters and opponents alike agree that this project is a bellwether on the future of larger scale wind projects in the state.

Antrim Wind Energy (AWE) recently pledged to make a payment of $100,000 to the New England Forest Foundation (NEFF), which will be awarded once the wind farm project in Antrim receives the remaining necessary approvals and proceeds to construction. The money is earmarked to permanently conserve valuable working forestland in southern New Hampshire. The payment and the resulting land conservation will be in addition to 908 acres of contiguous forestland already conserved in the vicinity of the wind project.

“We saw an opportunity to expand the mitigation,” said Jack Kenworthy, chief executive officer of the seacoast’s Eolian Renewable Energy LLC, the parent company of AWE. “We wanted to reach out to a group that had substantial experience in conservation and NEFF has that.”

The $100,000 pledge to NEFF is the most recent in a series of actions AWE has taken to address aesthetic concerns identified by the state during an earlier review of the project. AWE has also eliminated one turbine, reduced the height of another by 46 feet, and changed the design of the turbines to a model with a slimmer tower, smaller rotor and smaller nacelle. Additionally, $40,000 was pledged to the town of Antrim for recreational enhancements around Gregg Lake and $5,000 was committed per year for the life of the project to the Antrim Scholarship Fund. They also added a final 100-acre conservation easement to the center of the project ridgeline, which results in the 908 acres of permanent conservation land that includes 100 percent of the project ridgeline – a first in New Hampshire.

“We have always sought to be comprehensive in our planning and stakeholder engagement – and land conservation has been a core element of this project from the beginning” Kenworthy said. “We want to be as thorough as possible in addressing identified concerns with this project and this is one important component of that comprehensive effort.”

Whitney Beals, the director of land protection for NEFF, said the $100,000 they would receive from AWE is flexible and could be combined with other funds to support a land or conservation easement project.

Beals said that NEFF looks to work with partners that are involved with renewable resources among other things, and since wind is a renewable energy this seemed like a good fit for them. According to Beals, NEFF did its research to see if other New Hampshire partners had had problems with Eolian.

“And the answer was no,” said Beals.

So NEFF, which is based in Littleton, Mass., decided to partner with Eolian on the project and both Kenworthy and Beals said they would be open to working together again in the future.

For Eolian, the process to get the project up-and-running has been long. It's taken over six years and they still haven't even broken ground. But the environmental and economic benefits are substantial and Eolian and its partners are committed to seeing it through. After being rejected by a state panel two years ago, Eolian believes a re-hearing is in order because the new project is significantly different.

The wind farm will provide emissions-free electricity to supply enough power to serve an average of 12,750 average N.H. homes annually. The annual CO2 emissions would be reduced by more than 52,000 tons, according to a 2011 Resource Systems Group study. That's nearly 2.1 billion pounds in mitigated CO2 in 20 years.

Additionally, displacement of fossil fuel based electricity would provide fresh water savings of more than 15,400,000 gallons each year. And AWE’s innovative adaptive management plans for avian and bat protection includes a proven strategy for reducing mortality rates by testing seasonal curtailment.

The Antrim Wind project is economically friendly as well as eco-friendly, and is expected to bring approximately $53.4 million in economic development to the region, according to a 2014 Seacoast Economics study. It would also create approximately 84 jobs during construction and 12 jobs during operations.

More than $8.2 million would be paid to the Town of Antrim via a PILOT agreement. And it will generate millions of dollars in utility property tax to benefit New Hampshire schools.

The N.H. Site Evaluation Committee (NHSEC) shelved the project in 2013 due to aesthetic concerns despite strong public support. In response, AWE has made substantial efforts to reduce those impacts and increase the mitigation and together with the town of Antrim’s Board of Selectmen, 100 registered town voters and the Antrim Planning Board, asked the NHSEC to assert jurisdiction over the re-designed project.

Should the NHSEC assert their jurisdiction over the revisions, AWE says it will file a new application within a few weeks after a decision is reached.

Right now, Eolian’s goal is to have the wind farm operational by the end of 2017 with a bulk of the construction taking place in the spring of that year.

For more information on AWE, visit www.antrim-wind.com.

Eolian is a Green Alliance Corporate Partner.