Arms in the air

One of the Antrim Wind turbines is visible behind westbound Route 9 traffic.

ANTRIM — After fielding numerous concerns from neighbors of the Antrim Wind facility, the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee has voted to establish a subcommittee to vet complaints about the turbines.

During a March 25 meeting, members of the SEC, which oversees energy projects throughout the state, voted unanimously to create the three-member subcommittee to review complaints related to the nine-turbine facility, and determine if they require an investigation. Further, the SEC chair has been directed to hire consultants to assist the subcommittee in this work.

The Antrim Wind facility is owned by the Alberta-based TransAlta, which operates more than 20 wind farms and 900 turbines across Canada, Australia and the U.S.

The Antrim Wind turbines were built on a ridgeline extending southwest from Tuttle Hill to Willard Mountain.

Despite opposition from members of the public before the facility’s construction, Antrim Wind went into service in late 2019. Its approval by the SEC came with various conditions designed to preserve the quality of life for nearby residents.

But people living in the area have long complained that the turbines can be heard throughout the evening and that lights on the turbines meant to alert nearby planes flash more frequently than they’re supposed to.

“Noise limits have been regularly exceeded, resulting in significant discomfort suffered by nearby residents,” said Richard Block, a neighbor of the wind farm. “And the radar-activated lighting system does not function, with the strobe lighting flashing almost all night, every night.”

However, the SEC currently has no administrator, the staff member who typically processes complaints. The SEC took a separate vote on March 25 to allow the subcommittee to serve this function.

Several people living near Antrim Wind have also taken issue with how sound is measured when assessing whether a wind facility is meeting the conditions of its certificate of operation, which is done by averaging data collected over a period of time.

During the SEC’s March 25 meeting, Lori Lerner, former president of N.H. Wind Watch —a citizens group that opposes industrial wind projects in the state — compared this with someone saying they’d followed the speed limit because, though they’d been speeding, they’d previously driven more slowly, bringing the average below the threshold.

During the same meeting, SEC member Susan Duphrey noted that there have been disagreements about how best to measure sound emitted by turbines and moved to task the new subcommittee — or a separate one — with examining the SEC’s standards for doing so and making a recommendation to the full committee. Members passed that motion unanimously.

“I find it really complicated trying to understand exactly how this regulation is supposed to be applied,” she said, saying that she’s reviewed information from people on both sides of the issue. “I keep changing my mind about what I think is the most appropriate way to apply this regulation.”

During the meeting, several residents also alleged that the committee had hosted a previous meeting that wasn’t properly noticed.

Lerner explained that people who were supposed to be alerted to public meetings on the project were not informed of a session in November when the committee voted to accept a report saying Antrim Wind was in compliance with state regulations governing wind-power facilities.

The “only rational remedy,” Lerner said during the March 25 meeting, “would be to reverse the decisions of the Nov. 23 meeting, reopen the Antrim Wind docket and schedule an adjudicative hearing to review all the issues and complaints with the Antrim Wind facility.”

Attorney Thomas Getz, speaking on behalf of Antrim Wind Energy, said the November session was “properly noticed” under state law.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson