The state’s Site Evaluation Committee voted 5-1 to approve a certificate for a nine-turbine wind project on Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain.
SEC Administrator Pamela Monroe said the approval comes with conditions that have been verbalized but need to be put into writing. She said the committee will issue a written order that clearly maps out the stipulations, although there is no estimated time or date when the process will be completed.
Once the order is finalized, individuals or parties can file a motion for reconsideration at which time the committee would have to examine those requests.
“They went through all the criteria and rules and considered each and every one of those,” Monroe said about the deliberation process that spanned over the course of three separate days.
The committee, which is now made up of an entirely new set of individuals, struck down a similar proposal in 2012.
Antrim Wind Energy, whose parent company is Walden Green Energy, retooled its plan after the decision was handed down four years ago. The company reduced the numbers of turbines from 10 to 9 and shortened one of the towers to reduce its visibility from Willard Pond. The company also offered additional mitigation packages, including a $40,000 one-time donation to the Gregg Lake Recreation area, a $5,000 yearly contribution to the Antrim Scholarship Fund, and $100,000 to a local land trust to purchase future conservation easements, in addition to the 908 acres of land originally earmarked for conservation, as a way to incentivize its proposal.
“It’s what I expected,” Charles Levesque, who lives in Antrim, said on Monday evening after the SEC approved the certificate. “The six-person panel was predisposed to this project. We saw that months and months and months ago.”
Even with the committee’s approval, he said, the 28.8 megawatt project is still a long way off from being built. The key will come from the written order, he said, but until that document is in writing, it’s hard to comment on the nuances of the proposal.
He said a major factor will hinge upon the company being able to finance the $65 million project. With a change in leadership, both at the federal and state level, money for renewable-energy projects may dry up.
“Just because they have granted a certificate doesn’t mean it will get built,” Levesque said.
Select board Chair John Robertson said he did not attend the final deliberation on Monday Dec, 12, but received the news that the request was approved via email.
He said there are still things that need to be hammered out, such as radar control that needs to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, but that the certification is a major step forward for the project.
If it is completed, Robertson said it would draw in hundreds of thousands of dollars that could potentially stabilize the town’s tax rate.
“It’s like you know you want to say ‘whoopee’, I’m glad to see this come to an end so that we can move on to other issues in the town,” Robertson said.