New law powers wind generation opportunities
Governor Lynch recently signed into law House Bill 873, establishing the New Hampshire renewable portfolio standards, which requires all power providers to increase their use of energy from renewable sources, such as wind generation facilities.
Under the law, providers will have to increase their use of “Class I” sources, such as wind energy, by 0.5 percent by 2009 and by 1 percent by 2010, with a 1 percent increase in each subsequent year until 2525.
There are obvious benefits in providing inducement for decreased reliance on imported, non-renewable energy sources that provide electricity for the state and benefits to the local economy in creating local renewable energy sources.
Wind power has great potential to contribute significant energy supply to the state while decreasing emissions of air pollutants.
Wind power generation facilities that generate more than 30 megawatts are subject to the state siting process an must comply with the state’s energy facility site evaluation requirements. A smaller project could elect to be covered by the state siting process to streamline the process and prevent piecemeal regulatory review.
The purpose of the facility siting process is to maintain a balance between environmental protection and the need for new energy facilities in New Hampshire. The process establishes a comprehensive state process for the review, approval, monitoring and enforcement of compliance in the planning, siting, construction and operation of energy facilities.
The law recognizes that the public interest is served by avoiding delay in permitting such projects while providing broad public access to the evaluation of all siting determinations, including the need for electric power supplies, environmental, land use, regional planning and economic considerations.
A high-level Energy Facility Site Evaluation Committee was established to these determinations based on the evidence presented to it by the project proponent and other interested parties.
The committee, known as EFSEC, is composed of the commissioners of the Departments of Environmental Services, Transportation, Resources and Economic Development, Health and Human Services and the Public Utilities Commission as well as the executive director of Fish and Game and directors of the Office of Energy and Planning, Division of Parks and Recreation, Division of Air Resources and the Water Division.
The EFSEC has authority on all questions of siting, land use, air and water quality. It issues certificates, determines the conditions of approval, monitors the construction and operation of any energy facility, and enforces the terms and conditions of any certificate.
A subcommittee of the EFSEC reviews and approves applications for a renewable energy facility. In order to qualify for a certificate from the committee for a renewable energy facility, an applicant benefits from a one stop process.
This process includes review of the application by all other state agencies having jurisdiction to regulate the construction or operation of the proposed facility, the submission of testimony, exhibits and sufficient information to satisfy the application requirements of each state agency having jurisdiction, after a public hearing in each county in which the proposed facility is to be located within 30 days of filing.
The subcommittee must issue or deny a certificate for a renewable energy facility within 240 days of the acceptance of an application.
To assure that the public interest is adequately represented in each case, the attorney general appoints an assistant as a counsel for the public to appear throughout the proceedings representing the public. This responsibility requires the balancing of adequate protection of the environment on the one hand, and assurance of an adequate supply of energy, on the other.
The EFSEC recently approved a wind power project in Lempster that includes 12 two-megawatt wind turbines on Lempster Mountain. According to reports, the wind farm will produce more than 75 million kilowatt hours of renewable electricity, enough to power approximately 10,500 homes.
The committee also approved the Loranger Power Generation Corp. proposal, which has four 160-foot wind turbines on Jericho Mountain in Berlin. This wind farm has the ability to produce 1.4 megawatts of energy, enough to power about 700 homes. In August, Unitil announced its plan to construct a single wind-energy turbine in Hampton.
Because RPS requires electric providers to obtain an increasing minimum percentage of their power from renewable resources, it will create economic incentives to complement tax incentives for wind power generation facilities.
Wind facilities also may qualify for a local property tax exemption under the current law as well, and for a Renewable Electricity Production Credit pursuant to the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
Attorneys Greg Smith and Jarrett Duncan practice in the Environmental Law Group at McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton. They can be reached at 603-226-0400 or by e-mail at email@example.com.