Nearly a decade after Antrim residents first heard the first proposal to put wind turbines on Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain, ground is being broken on the project next week.
On July 26, Antrim Wind Energy submitted a notice of the start of construction of the Antrim Wind Project to the state’s Department of Environmental Services, stating that the company expects to move forward with construction on or about Aug. 6.
The company plans to construct a 9-turbine, 29-megawatt project on the ridgeline, a project it has been struggling to get off the ground since the spring of 2009. An earlier version with 10 turbines was turned down by the state’s site evaluation committee in 2012. The company brought back a 9-turbine version in 2015, which was approved.
“I’ve been in favor since the very beginning, and I’m pleased it’s moving forward,” said Gordon Webber of Antrim, a former selectman who sat on the board for a portion of the long process. “I think this is the move that we need to be making as a nation. This is one small step in the right direction.”
Ben Pratt of Antrim agreed with that sentiment, saying he’d been in favor of the project since its early inception because the nation needs to encourage more renewable energy projects. He sees wind turbines as benign in comparison to coal-fired plants.
“I think the benefits far outweigh the detrimental aspects,” Pratt said.
Richard Block of Antrim is part of a group that has been opposed to the turbine project since it was first proposed, including appealing decisions made at the state level which allowed the project to move forward. Block is one of the residents who will be directly impacted by the project, with portions of his property located about half a mile from one of the turbines. He said that the construction of the turbines will make his quiet home comparable to one built next to the freeway. But that’s not his main concern, he said.
“The noise and aesthetics are a big concern, but both of those are things that just affect me, and if I can learn to live with it, that’s fine,” he said.
Block said he is more concerned about the impact to the ridge. Though the wind farm has a condition in its approval to decommission and remove the turbines at the end of their lifespan, and restore the ridge, Block said he’s concerned that there will be no restoring some things, like a boulder field that creates animal habitat.
“Those are the changes that will never, ever be able to be restored,” Block said.
Though appeals of the approval of the project have gone all the way to the Supreme Court, Block said those opposed to the project will continue to challenge it.
In February, Canadian energy company TransAlta Renewables announced it has arranged to acquire two construction-ready wind projects. Though not identified by the name “Antrim Wind,” one of the projects is a 29-Megawatt project in New Hampshire.
In order for TransAlta to purchase Antrim Wind, there will be a review process by the state’s Site Evaluation Committee. Block said opposers of the project will continue to raise objections throughout that process, and plan to monitor the project to ensure that regulations are followed as groundwork and blasting moves forward at the Antrim site.