State land use regulators are set Wednesday to take up staff recommendations for the approval for TransCanada's wind energy project and a denial for Maine Mountain Power's wind farm, both proposed in northern Franklin County.
The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission had deliberated on both projects on Jan. 14 and came up with the split decision they directed staff to draft.
Commissioners have several other items on the agenda, including a request from Harley Lee, on behalf of Maine Mountain Power, to withdraw the petition for rezoning and an application for proposed preliminary development plan for the Redington and Black Nubble Wind Farms in Redington Township, and Western Mountains Foundation to amend its application from two huts to one.
A second bid to reinstate a commercial building ordinance has failed.
The board of selectmen took no action Friday on resident Jeff Keating's petition to hold a secret ballot vote at next month's town meeting to reinstate the Commercial Development Review Ordinance. ...Residents at a special town meeting in June that was prompted by a petition drive voted to rescind the ordinance, thus opening the door for Competitive Energy to apply for a permit under the much more lenient building ordinance.
The company was approved to begin construction last summer, though neighbors, including Keating, recently filed notice with the board of appeals arguing that the project's development has not met the pace required by the building code.
TransCanada is interested in a 60-40 TIF district with 60 percent of the taxes generated from a wind farm going back to the developer to put into the project. The other 40 percent would be kept by the county for economic development in unorganized territories. ...TIFs have been widely used by municipalities because the new value of the project is "captured" and can be "sheltered" from state valuation. State valuations are used in state formulas for education subsidies, revenue sharing and also for computing county taxes, Ledew said.
Because the UT receives no state education subsidy, sheltering TIF value in the UT will not translate to additional education subsidies for unorganized territory residents.
The northern Franklin County wind farm proposed by Canadian power producer TransCanada will not only significantly reduce the tax rate in the unorganized townships, but it could provide funds for economic development, a state official said Tuesday.
Franklin County commissioners Tuesday voted to engage Eaton Peabody Consulting Group of Augusta to advise, develop and negotiate a tax-break arrangement known as a tax-increment financing district, or TIF, with TransCanada.
According to TransCanada's project manager, Nick DiDomenico, the company will pick up the cost of all of Eaton Peabody's services, estimated at $40,000.
A goal to make Maine a regional leader in wind power by developing 2,000 megawatts of capacity by 2015 may require more than just regulatory changes.
Gov. John E. Baldacci's task force on wind power submitted a final report this week, calling for more than half the state to be identified as expedited permitting areas where a streamlined regulatory process would be used for wind power projects.
If the goals of the report are met, between 1,000 and 2,000 wind turbines, each 400 feet tall, could be placed on Maine's landscape by 2020, enough to generate 3,000 megawatts of clean energy. ...Mitch Tannenbaum, deputy general counsel for the Maine Public Utilities Commission, said transmission capacity is something that will have to be addressed as 2,000 to 3,000 megawatts of generation capacity is added.
A consultant specializing in tax-increment financing deals and economic development and a representative of TransCanada are scheduled to meet with Franklin County commissioners Tuesday.
TransCanada proposes to build a $270 million, 44-wind turbine project on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in Kibby and Skinner townships in northern Franklin County near the Canadian border. ...Mitchell recommended if commissioners want to capture some new tax revenue to support economic development in unorganized territories, then planning needs to take place before a proposed wind power project's value is counted toward the county's state valuation.
Governor John E. Baldacci today received the final report of the Wind Power Task Force. The Governor created the task force by Executive Order last May and charged the group with reviewing the regulations that affect the development of wind power projects and recommend any changes that would assure that Maine has a balanced, efficient and appropriate regulatory framework for evaluating proposed projects. ..."Maine's natural resources are second to none," said the Governor. "There is tremendous potential for Maine to become a leader in clean, renewable energy - wind, wood and new technologies like tidal power are just a few."
A high-level state task force that has drafted a plan to make Maine a leader in wind power is presenting its report to Gov. John Baldacci at the State House today. ...The task force also is recommending that most of the state be included in a new zone in which wind turbines proposals would receive expedited regulatory review.
Beaver Ridge Wind, a subsidiary of Competitive Energy, was issued a building permit to construct three, 400-foot, electricity-generating turbines in July.
To date, the only work that has occurred on site is the drilling of bore holes to test the soil and bedrock in advance of installing the turbine foundations.
The ordinance requires all approved projects to be "substantially commenced" within six months of when the permit is granted, a standard that is not met by merely drilling test holes, Bearor said.
A state task force has drafted a road map that it says will make Maine a major generator of wind power.
The group's draft report calls for streamlined regulatory review of wind power projects in most regions of the state so 1,000 or more turbines could be set up by 2020.
It also identifies important scenic areas -- places like Baxter State Park, Acadia National Park and the Appalachian Trail -- that would be protected from the visual impacts of wind farms.
"This is a major step forward," said Alec Giffen, director of the Maine Forest Service and chairman of the Governor's Task Force on Wind Power. "It's going to put Maine in a position to be a leader in wind power and it's going to preserve Maine's quality of place." ...The final task force report will include a map of the regions where proposed wind farms would get speedier review by state agencies. Studies of wildlife impacts would still be required, but visual impacts would be considered only under special circumstances.
An ordinance repealed by voters at a special town meeting last summer would be reinstated if neighbors of an approved wind turbine project get their way.
Jeff Keating, who owns property near the Beaver Ridge site where three wind turbines are to be erected later this year, plans to submit a petition during the Feb. 20 selectmen's meeting asking for a secret vote to reinstate the Commercial Development Review Ordinance voters repealed in June.
"We haven't had an ordinance in town since then and (the planning) board claimed they would put a new ordinance in," Keating said Friday. "It's an attempt to get an ordinance in place that was promised."
Keating presented a petition with 47 signatures -- 30 were required for certification ...Competitive Energy, which was granted a permit in July, promised to abide by standards in the Commercial Development Review Ordinance.
Editor's note: On March 3, 2008, voters of the Town of Roxbury passed the ordinance 43 yes, 28 no, despite pleas from residents to wait until more information was made available on the proposed wind project.
TransCanada has not yet formally asked the county to consider a state-sponsored tax break program for its $270 million wind farm project near the Canadian border.
But on Tuesday, an outside consultant urged county commissioners to take the initiative and pursue the program since capturing the new tax revenue will benefit the county.
Franklin County, in conjunction with TransCanada, could take the lead and set up a Tax Increment Financing District to capture all or part of the new property and business equipment tax generated by the wind farm in Kibby and Skinner Townships, said Greg Mitchell of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group LLC of Augusta.
With nearly 1,000 house lots and an even larger number of resort accommodations, Plum Creek's Moosehead Lake proposal stands as the largest development plan ever submitted to Maine regulators.
Yet the 20,000 acres Plum Creek is seeking to rezone for development represent just 5 percent of the total acreage in the company's plan. The remaining 430,000 acres - covering an area nearly two-thirds the size of Rhode Island - would be protected permanently through a combination of conservation deals. ...The current plan has critics, however. ...The 266,000-acre "legacy" easement also would allow wind farms to be sited on the land with approval from both LURC and the easement holder.
The wind farm provisions were inserted into the easement at the suggestion of AMC, which is already a major landowner in the Moosehead region.
David Publicover, AMC's senior staff scientist, said many sites in the region likely would be inappropriate for wind farms because of impacts on scenery. But AMC has identified a number of sites on Plum Creek land that could be suitable for wind power, he said.
Prospective developers of a wind farm near the Canadian border in Western Maine said Tuesday they hope to begin construction this summer and have all 44 turbines up and running by 2010. ...TransCanada's project cleared a major regulatory hurdle on Monday when the Land Use Regulation Commission unanimously approved the Canadian company's application to rezone 2,367 acres for the project.
Before construction begins, TransCanada must also submit a final development plan to LURC, which regulates projects in Maine's unorganized territories.
In separate decisions Monday, the Land Use Regulation Commission rejected one wind-power proposal but approved another that will be New England's largest wind installation.
By a 4-2 vote Monday morning, the commission rejected Maine Mountain Power's 54-megawatt Black Nubble Wind Farm, which proposed 18 turbines on that Franklin County mountain.
In the afternoon, the citizen board approved TransCanada's 132-megawatt Kibby Wind Power project, which calls for placing 44 turbines on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range, both in Franklin County. When constructed, that project will be the largest of its kind in New England, according to TransCanada.
Together, the two decisions amount to a mixed bag for the state's fledgling wind industry.
Maine land use regulators voted unanimously to approve TransCanada's wind-power project in western Maine, but rejected a second poject by another group that had been scaled back after being turned down a year ago.
The Land Use Regulation Commission voted to allow a 44-turbine project near the Canadian border in Franklin County, saying TransCanada Maine Wind Development's application answered its concerns that roads would be built properly, and birds and bats would be protected.
Commissioners also said the developer's project would not present the same kind of intrusion on the highlands scenery as the project proposed by Maine Mountain Power, whose 18-turbine project south of TransCanada's was turned down by a 4-2 vote earlier in the day.
With Maine's spot as New England's largest generator of wind power already well-established, state regulators on Monday will consider two more projects that would produce enough clean power to keep the lights glowing and toasters cooking in more than 70,000 homes. ...Because the record was closed following last fall's hearings on the projects, no public testimony or comment will be accepted Monday, when the commissioners will essentially debate and discuss proposals. While Carroll said no vote is expected at Monday's public session, but a date could be set for a final decision.
A meeting on Monday could mark an important milestone for Maine's fledgling, but growing, windpower industry.
The seven-member Land Use Regulation Commission board is scheduled to deliberate on two windpower projects in Franklin County: Maine Mountain Power's Black Nubble development, and TransCanada's Kibby windpower installation. The citizen board could hand down decisions on both.
Together, those two proposals have a generating capacity of more than 180 megawatts. ...Dave Wilby, executive director of the Independent Energy Producers of Maine, said that while siting windpower capacity is a challenge, wind is also one of the few types of power facilities that has a realistic chance in Maine. Siting generating capacity "is not easy anywhere and it is not easy here," said Wilby.
The wind in New England blows mainly against big green-energy projects. At least that's the assessment of Matt Kearns, an audibly frazzled project manager for Newton, MA-based UPC Wind.
Despite winning final approval last week for the creation of New England's largest wind-energy installation, now under construction on a ridge in northern Maine, Kearns says the regulatory and political barriers to placing major cleantech facilities in the region are high enough to scare off all but the most persistent and well-funded entrepreneurs.
"The uncertainty and the costs associated with that uncertainty are pretty overwhelming, frankly, in many cases," says Kearns, who has spent the last several years shepherding UPC's Stetson Mountain wind farm project past the cautious scrutiny of state, county, and federal agencies, not to mention local residents and environmental groups.