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State to review wind farm proposal

The state Site Evaluation Committee said Thursday night it will review a controversial wind farm proposed for 25 acres on Lempster Mountain. The decision came Thursday night after a hearing in Concord, where members also rejected the developer’s request for a speedy review.

The state’s involvement will add paperwork and delays to the start of construction, which developer Community Energy Inc. fears may cause it to miss up to $15 million in federal tax credits.

The state unanimously voted to oversee the project after residents and town officials petitioned it to do so.

Lempster, a town of about 32 square miles with about 1,000 residents, is one of a handful of New Hampshire towns that does not have zoning regulations. That means the Pennsylvania-based CEI only needed a standard building permit for its turbines; the permit was granted a year ago this month. But the lack of zoning is what prompted the town to request a state review.

The SEC said Thursday it will oversee the permitting from all state agencies for the project, and will examine the company’s financial and managerial competence to operate the wind farm.

The hearing was a continuation from June 21. After that first session, CEI said it would support the committee’s oversight, if members could make a decision by Nov. 21.

State law allows for a nine-month review process, which CEI says could cause crucial delays in construction... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The state’s involvement will add paperwork and delays to the start of construction, which developer Community Energy Inc. fears may cause it to miss up to $15 million in federal tax credits.

The state unanimously voted to oversee the project after residents and town officials petitioned it to do so.

Lempster, a town of about 32 square miles with about 1,000 residents, is one of a handful of New Hampshire towns that does not have zoning regulations. That means the Pennsylvania-based CEI only needed a standard building permit for its turbines; the permit was granted a year ago this month. But the lack of zoning is what prompted the town to request a state review.

The SEC said Thursday it will oversee the permitting from all state agencies for the project, and will examine the company’s financial and managerial competence to operate the wind farm.

The hearing was a continuation from June 21. After that first session, CEI said it would support the committee’s oversight, if members could make a decision by Nov. 21.

State law allows for a nine-month review process, which CEI says could cause crucial delays in construction of the wind turbines. It could also mean a loss of up to $15 million in federal tax credits for the $40-million project. “If the project is not in service by the end of 2007” — that means fully constructed and operational — “it will not able to receive those credits, which is a major component for financing this project,” said Jeff Keeler, director of Community Energy.

The federal tax credits are issued at a rate of about $1.25 million a year and expire Dec. 31, 2007.

The company still needs various state permits and must now submit an application to the SEC. State law requires that the committee then decide whether the application is complete and, within 30 days, hold a public hearing in Sullivan County.

Keeler said CEI hoped to break ground on the project this fall. With the state’s review process now in place, the company may have an aggressive schedule to meet in order to complete the project by the end of 2007, he said.

“If we can get a decision by the end of the year, that would prevent delay,” Keeler said. It would also mean construction would begin no later than May or June 2007, he said.

The SEC examines energy projects, but has never reviewed a renewable energy project before. Typically, it oversees larger-scale power facilities, such as the Seabrook nuclear power plant. This also marks the first time the petition process has been used to trigger such a review.

CEI wants to build a dozen 400-foot turbines. If it succeeds, the project would be the first major source of wind power in New Hampshire — and one of the first new wind power sources in New England in more than a decade.

 


Source: http://www.unionleader.com/...

JUL 8 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/3389-state-to-review-wind-farm-proposal
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