Saturday, March 17, 2018

Siting a Wind Farm in the Most Challenging Place in the US

Developer: “It’s a bit of a bellwether for what the future looks like.”

Image, right: visual simulation of the AWE as it will be seen from Gregg Lake in Antrim, NH. (Credit: AWE) Click to Enlarge.
According to Jack Kenworthy, CEO of Eolian Renewable Energy, a project developer based in New Hampshire, the best wind projects are those that have died two times because then you know what’s wrong with them.  The project he is currently working on is known as Antrim Wind Energy (AWE), a 28.8-MW wind farm on the Tuttle Hill ridge line in Antrim, N.H. in the United States.

On a windy day in late February, Kenworthy, Henry Weitzner with Walden Green Energy, a subsidiary of German utility RWE, and landscape architect David Raphael with Landworks, took several members of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) on a site inspection tour to show them how AWE will impact the community in which it resides.

New England Wind Projects Challenging
In all of the U.S., New England is among the most difficult places to site wind projects.  Walden Green Energy’s Henry Weitzner said this one has been one of the worst.  “Walden has looked at about 15 different projects,” he said, adding, “We have looked at Texas, Minnesota, North Dakota, Utah and California, and I would say that there definitely are some issues in California but this is overwhelmingly the most difficult.”

So why even try?  Going back to 2009, Kenworthy explained he had originally viewed the process of building a wind farm in the state of New Hampshire as the most reasonable of all the New England states.  At that time there had been three wind projects that had gone though the SEC process.  “The process itself was long and expensive and kind of painful for all those projects but at the end of the day they were able to be built,” he said.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with his project, which was not modified or conditioned but outright denied “at the 11th hour on a subjective issue” he said.  The reason for the denial was adverse aesthetic impacts.

Rather than give up, Kenworthy altered the project, dropping one turbine all together and modifying the height of another to lessen its visual impact.  Further, he swapped out the Iberdrola turbines with higher-rated Siemens turbines so he could deliver the same amount of power to the grid with fewer turbines.

Since a few years had passed, he was also armed with more direction regarding what benchmarks the project needed to meet.  “Noise is very clear to us — it is a 40 DBA standard.  Shadow flicker is very clear — it is an 8-hour per year standard.  We can meet that,” Kenworthy said.  

Finding Good Sites
Kenworthy said part of his tenacity in building the AWE project is that it is the best sited wind project in the state.  Not only because of the excellent wind resource, but also because the project can be built close to existing transmission lines and close to a main highway, so there is no need to build new transmission nor is there any roadway impact.

“Look, good wind sites, nowadays in New England are extremely rare.  This is one of them.  In fact, it's not just a good wind site, it’s a great wind site,” said Kenworthy.

Read more at Siting a Wind Farm in the Most Challenging Place in the US

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