By Tony Giunta, PG, Director of Project Development
If you’ve been watching this season’s political debates, reading news articles, or listening to world leaders, one message is loud and clear. Mother Earth is in trouble! Daily we’re reminded that carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion is causing climate havoc and if humanity doesn’t move to renewable forms of energy, our very existence is in peril.
OK, you get the message and you decide you’re going to do your part to save the planet. You form a company, decide on a renewable energy technology, secure financing, lease or buy the necessary land, and hire professionals to move your dream forward. You’re all set to start digging when you’re told, “hold on, everything needs to be permitted first!”. Permitted? With the world ready to spontaneously combust, how long does permitting take?
Well, it depends on the size of your project. For instance, Eversource and Hydro-Quebec just completed a five year $318M permitting process to transmit renewable hydroelectric power 192 miles over existing powerlines and after all that time (and money) their final project permit was denied! So, let’s assume your project isn’t quite this big and involves typical local and state permits.
To determine the amount of time from concept to construction, it’s important to consider the following. Does your project have the required electrical infrastructure to accept your renewable energy? Is the land suitable for development (i.e. is it too wet, sloped, or cursed with shallow bedrock)? Is the community in favor of your project (from our experience, everyone wants renewable energy until it comes to their town-then it’s “not in my backyard!”)? If your project survives these initial “fatal flaw” tests, then it’s on to land surveys, project layout, and necessary studies to support state permit submissions like alteration of terrain, wetland impacts, and endangered species identification. You must also factor in time to complete local reviews such as zoning board variances, planning board site reviews, and meetings with city councils or selectboards for their approval to adopt special taxation agreements for your project.
Finally, because you’re developing in the Northeast, there’s also one more factor to consider-WINTER! If you miss a seasonal window of opportunity to survey or perform data gathering evaluations, you will probably lose 6 months before you can go back out into the field and retrieve required site data to move on. Assuming you hit an optimal spring start date, you should plan on the entire permitting process to take anywhere from eight to twelve months.
“The process takes too long” you say? I agree and can only surmise that averting a “terra-climatic apocalypse” isn’t on everybody’s top priority list.