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Wind farms in Maine stir a power struggle

But the situation has prompted some soul-searching as some residents worry more wind turbines will turn the woodsy state into New England's utility closet. Opponents also question wind power's environmental merits and say turbines aren't worth spoiled views or noise. Larry Dunphy, a Republican state representative, recently posited a future when "you won't be able to climb a mountain without seeing blinking red lights and spinning turbines."

Residents Balk as Developers Try to Meet Nearby States' Energy Needs; 'There Are Going to Be Some Unhappy People Here'

TOWNSHIP 16, Maine—This state's tree-filled hinterlands, long known for producing forest products and potatoes, are also suited for an export that has churned up debate: wind power.

The recent appetite for wind power comes largely from Massachusetts and Connecticut, where laws require use of more renewable power. The two states combined have 70% of New England's population but little open space to build wind farms. Developers have turned to Maine, where they say land is expansive and strong winds plentiful.

Maine already leads the region with more than 400 megawatts of wind power installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association, which said 1 megawatt of wind power can cover about 290 homes. Recently signed long-term contracts with utilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut could more than double that output in the next few years.

Many locals welcome the development, helped by financial rewards tied to the projects, and the wind industry counted strong Maine support in a recent poll. Governors in Massachusetts and... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Residents Balk as Developers Try to Meet Nearby States' Energy Needs; 'There Are Going to Be Some Unhappy People Here'

TOWNSHIP 16, Maine—This state's tree-filled hinterlands, long known for producing forest products and potatoes, are also suited for an export that has churned up debate: wind power.

The recent appetite for wind power comes largely from Massachusetts and Connecticut, where laws require use of more renewable power. The two states combined have 70% of New England's population but little open space to build wind farms. Developers have turned to Maine, where they say land is expansive and strong winds plentiful.

Maine already leads the region with more than 400 megawatts of wind power installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association, which said 1 megawatt of wind power can cover about 290 homes. Recently signed long-term contracts with utilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut could more than double that output in the next few years.

Many locals welcome the development, helped by financial rewards tied to the projects, and the wind industry counted strong Maine support in a recent poll. Governors in Massachusetts and Connecticut said the deals will add clean energy to the grid at cost-effective rates.

But the situation has prompted some soul-searching as some residents worry more wind turbines will turn the woodsy state into New England's utility closet. Opponents also question wind power's environmental merits and say turbines aren't worth spoiled views or noise.

Larry Dunphy, a Republican state representative, recently posited a future when "you won't be able to climb a mountain without seeing blinking red lights and spinning turbines."

Lawsuits and permit appeals seeking to block projects are common, though it has proven difficult to get around a 2008 state law that spurred wind development, said Lynne Williams, an attorney in Bar Harbor who represents wind-farm opponents.

The law, passed under former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci, set aggressive goals for adding wind power while simplifying the regulatory process. Republican Gov. Paul LePage has been a wind-power critic, but Ms. Williams said changes have been tough under both Democratic and GOP control.

Jeremy Payne, executive director at the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said wind power brings some economic development. "This is something we should be embracing," he said.

For now, developers say Maine remains an easier place to build in than other regional locales. Massachusetts has about 100 megawatts of its own wind power installed, according to the state, but a 12-year effort to erect a wind farm off Cape Cod illustrates the challenge of building in crowded areas with well-financed opponents.

Power-grid operator ISO New England Inc. said developers have asked to connect 1,275 megawatts of added wind power in Maine. Some projects may drop off the radar, and expiring federal subsidies could slow development, but mounting demand is likely to keep Maine busy this decade, said Paul Gaynor, chief executive at Boston-based developer First Wind.

First Wind's 19-tower Bull Hill project, which started generating power for a Massachusetts utility last year, sits on a remoteplateau in the unorganized Township 16. The turbines recently spun steadily, tapping frigid breezes hundreds of feet up despite calm weather on the ground. The 160-foot blades generated a rhythmic whooshing.

In Oakfield, a remote northern town, retired electrical engineer Dennis Small is worried about noise from a $350 million, 48-tower First Wind project in construction. He pointed to nearby Mars Hill, where noise and other complaints fueled confidential settlements between First Wind and homeowners about two years ago, the residents' attorney said.

Mr. Small said he shared in financial benefits for full-time residents, but thought it was a mistake to take a deal. "There are going to be some unhappy people here once [the windmills] start turning."

First Wind said its models have become quieter and it aims for more distance from homes.


Source: http://online.wsj.com/news/...

DEC 24 2013
http://www.windaction.org/posts/39353-wind-farms-in-maine-stir-a-power-struggle
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