Makes changes to the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). In particular, this bill replaces all state officials on the committee with members of the public. This bill also requires the SEC to consider more factors when evaluating applications for wind turbines, such as shadow flicker.
Wind Power Restrictions
Four electricity-producing wind power plants operate in the state of New Hampshire:
- The 12-turbine Lempster Wind Power Project, which opened in 2008;
- The 33-turbine Granite Reliable Power site in Coos County, online since late 2011;
- The 24-turbine Groton Wind Farm, which got cranking just after Christmas 2012;
- The five turbine Jericho Power LLC site in Berlin, which started operating in early 2016.
The wind power plants in Lempster and Groton are each managed by Spanish wind energy company Iberdrola Renewables, while Canada's Brookfield Renwable Power operates the Coos County site. The Berlin project is managed by Massachusetts-based firm Solaya.
Controversy in Groton
In late 2013, the state fire marshal and others filed complaints with the state Site Evaluation Committee, charging that Iberdrola failed to get proper approval for changes to the Groton Wind Farm construction plan. Iberdrola argued they followed state law by filing the changes with the Department of Environmental Services. In April, the fire marshal and Groton Wind Farm reached a compromise; Iberdrola agreed to upgrade fire safety equipment. The Site Evaluation Committee closed its investigation into the Groton facility in June 2015.
In December 2013, Iberdrola Renewables also filed an application to build a 23-turbine wind power plant in Alexandria and Danbury. The project faced opposition from local residents and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. In May 2014, Iberdrola announced they were abandoning that application due to a hostile regulatory and political climate in New Hampshire.
A 30-megawatt, 10-turbine wind project spanning the ridge line of Tuttle Hill and Willard Mountain in Antrim was originally rejected by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee in 2013. The committee was concerned about the "unreasonable adverse (visual) effect" the project would have on the area. In 2016, the SEC approved a revised plan for a nine-turbine windfarm in Antrim. The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld this decision in May 2018 and construction on the project commenced that summer.
In 2013, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed SB 99, requiring the Site Evaluation Committee to direct a study of site evaluation criteria and establishing a committee to study the criteria for siting of wind turbines and other electricity-generating facilities. That process was completed in 2015 and the updated rules can be seen here. In 2017, Gov. Sununu signed HB 337, which gives the Site Evaluation Committee the power to regulate the noise level of small wind turbines.
PROS & CONS
"NH should encourage further wind power development."
- Wind power supporters argue that wind farms are a clean, sustainable alternative to burning fossil fuels.
- Wind farms can also boost the local economy by creating jobs and providing tax revenue.
- Supporters challenge reports that the noise from wind turbines is harmful to human health. In December 2009, the American Wind Energy Association released a report claiming the sounds generated by wind turbines are not harmful to human health.
"NH should restrict further wind power development."
- Critics argue that wind power plants are ugly, cause destruction of many acres of mountain top forestation, and disturb the natural habitat in those locales.
- There are also concerns wind turbines cause physiological harm to residents living nearby. Some people have reported sleep deprivation, headaches and vertigo.
Establishes a committee to study off-shore wind energy development.
Requires the Site Evaluation Committee to issue a certificate for an energy facility if the committee fails to act within 365 days of acceptance of an application.
Requires a certificate issued by the Site Evaluation Committee to include a provision that the applicant guarantees funding for restoration efforts in the event of environmental damage caused by the facility.
Allows the Site Evaluation Committee to set rules for municipal regulation of the noise level of small wind turbines. At the time of this bill's submission, state law does not allow municipalities to set a noise limit below 55 decibels.
Requires the Site Evaluation Committee to amend rules, specifically some rules requiring visual impact assessments, fire protection plans, and emergency response plans.
Requires an energy facility applying to build in New Hampshire to give notice to any affected municipality, including cities or towns that would be able to see or hear the energy facility in a neighboring municipality.
Permits a representative of a municipality affected by a proposed energy facility to be a member of the Site Evaluation Committee for the sole purpose of voting on an application affecting his or her community.
Requires a certificate for an energy facitility to contain monitoring procedures and "reasonable terms and conditions" that the Site Evaluation Committee deems necessary.
Establishes a committee to study offshore wind energy production.
Givies the Public Utilities Commission the power to force PSNH to sell its power plants. This bill also requires the state Site Evaluation Committee to address scenic impacts, sound impacts, fire protection plans, and more when evaluating wind farm proposals.
Establishes a committee to study offshore wind energy production and other ocean power technology.
Sets limits on large wind farms, for example limiting the height of turbines to 250 feet.
Requires an economic impact analysis for future energy projects to determine what they will mean for jobs and incomes in local communities.
Requires an energy project to receive public approval anywhere the project's structures are visible.
Places a moratorium on all wind turbine and transmission line projects until the state develops a "comprehensive energy plan."
Requires the Site Evaluation Committee to deny any proposed energy facility with "unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety," and to consider the views of town governments in any decisions.
Establishes a state energy council to develop an energy strategy.
Requires an evaluation of the Site Evaluation Committee, which is responsible for approving new energy projects like the wind farm in Antrim.
Should NH restrict further wind power development?
Construction on the Antrim Wind project was scheduled to begin on August 6th.
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