NEW IPSWICH — Plans for a wind farm in New Ipswich and Temple are likely to be scrapped after the Department of Environmental Protection’s Site Evaluation Committee unanimously refused to take jurisdiction of the case during a public hearing Monday afternoon.
“We had a really good day yesterday,” said New Ipswich Planning Board Chairman Ed Dekker. “We got unanimous support from the committee to hold onto local control, and we are very appreciative. This is a victory for every town in New Hampshire that has zoning.”
But Adam Cohen of Timbertop Wind Energy, a subsidiary of Pioneer Green Energy of Texas which proposed the project, said the decision was not good for the future of the Granite State.
“It was a really bad day for renewable and clean energy in New Hampshire,” Cohen said. “Investors will not be spending money on these projects in the state, and the people of Temple and New Ipswich have lost out on 100 high-paying jobs and $30 million for the tax base.”
Timbertop had proposed placing five, three-megawatt Siemens wind turbines atop a hill that straddles New Ipswich and Temple. But after struggling with the town’s two sets of zoning ordinances and the changes to those ordinances that occurred while the planning process was under way, Cohen said his company decided to ask the Site Evaluation Committee to take jurisdiction.
Any wind project in New Hampshire that totals more than 30 megawatts immediately becomes the jurisdiction of the SEC, but because Timbertop was only a 15 megawatt farm, they had to petition the SEC to request the agency to take jurisdiction.
The first public hearing to discuss the jurisdictional issue was held by the SEC Monday morning. Due to the number of people who showed up to give input, the meeting ran until almost 5 p.m., said Dekker.
In the end, the committee voted unanimously that it did not have the authority to take jurisdiction over the Timbertop project.
“The Site Evaluation Committee realized that taking jurisdiction from local communities is not a step they want to take,” Dekker said. “The towns spent thousands of hours developing regulations for wind farms, and the legislature gave us the authority to do that. The SEC doesn’t want to become the state-wide zoning board.”
But Cohen said that because the two towns have different ordinances, trying to reach a middle ground without intervention from a third party made the project unmanageable. He said he sees no way forward at this point.
“New Hampshire is a tough environment for companies like ours to do business in,” said Cohen. “What this means is that the state prefers to get their energy from coal and HydroQuebec instead of having clean air and wind energy.”