N.H. Energy Siting Board Will Not Review Milford Solar Project
The state’s energy project siting board will not step in to decide on a proposed solar farm in Milford, after a hearing Thursday with local environmental advocates who had sought a more thorough review for the project.
The 16-megawatt array is smaller than the energy projects the Site Evaluation Committee typically reviews. But a citizens’ group in Milford petitioned the SEC, earlier this year, to take over consideration of the project from local officials.
They said construction would have an undue impact a sensitive wetland that’s home to endangered species and argued that Milford officials can't be impartial, in part because the land for the project is publicly owned and the town will profit from it.
An attorney for the solar developer maintained that the project isn’t significant enough to merit statewide review and said Milford is handling it appropriately. He suggested that opponents hoped mainly to delay the project in seeking an SEC review.
The SEC has only ever denied a building certificate to one project outright – Eversource’s Northern Pass transmission line, in 2018 – but its adjudicative hearings and deliberations are exhaustive and highly technical, and can take months or years.
SEC members ultimately agreed with Milford and the developer in a unanimous vote, saying they did not feel they needed to intervene and review the project in place of the town. They said they couldn’t fairly prejudge the solar array’s environmental impacts and found no compelling evidence that town officials had a conflict of interest.
The project would have been only the second solar farm the SEC has taken on, after they approved a 30-megawatt array in Fitzwilliam last year.
The Milford project was first proposed by a New Hampshire solar developer, now owned by a New York-based company, in 2018. It’s one of the largest arrays planned in the state, which currently has very little utility-scale solar power.