TEMPLE - No, thanks, was the overwhelming answer voiced by residents attending a pitch by an energy company to install between 12 and 25 wind turbines along a ridge on the western side of town.
About 50 residents listened as project developers for Renewable Energy Systems America, Inc., or RES, described the process to build and the economic benefits of installing a large wind farm here. The energy company and two landowners expressed an interest in developing a wind farm along a ridge of mountain tops in west Temple and, although aware of the town's ordinance prohibiting industrial wind farms, they wanted to see if perhaps residents had changed their minds and would be open to the idea now. Selectmen scheduled a public information meeting to discuss the issue Monday night with four representatives with RES.
There isn't a project currently in development in Temple, but "you have great potential for wind power and we want to at least ask the question," explained Dan Boyd, a RES senior director for project development. "If the answer is the ordinance is good, there are other places to explore the idea with."
Years ago an energy company was interested installing a large wind farm along the same six-mile ridge in Temple. Residents responded by approving temporary moratoriums forbidding industrial wind power development until an ordinance was created and approved by voters at town meeting three years ago. The ordinance essentially prohibits all industrial-size wind power development by restricting the maximum height, noise level and electrical generation capacity of the turbines. Boyd said the wind turbine towers in the U.S. can reach 500 feet from ground to blade tip.
Selectman Austin Foss explained the board decided to hold the public meeting with RES to explore the idea of a wind power development once again despite an ordinance in place prohibiting it because "we thought it should be reviewed by the citizens of town to make sure that's what you want."
In answer to several questions asked by those attending, Boyd said, yes, there is a "limited visual impact, but with responsible siting, there are many benefits to the community." Included are tax and other negotiated benefits such as some town road rebuilding and maintenance the company would provide in order to access the project's area.
The power generated would first be offered locally and in Maine, but could be exported if it wasn't needed or wanted. The land for the wind power development would be leased by its owners and public access would remain the decision of the landowners. The life of a turbine is between 20 and 30 years and its energy company owners would be responsible for all decommissioning costs.
Boyd said now with a few projects developed near here, most notably in Carthage, "maybe you're seeing it's not the end of the world." The 12-turbine, 34.2 megawatt, Saddleback Ridge Wind Project in Carthage was completed in September 2015 by another energy company, Patriot Renewables of Quincy, Mass. "There are jobs created from the projects," he said, by using local construction companies and a few employees who provide maintenance over the life of the turbines.
"The project is not going to provide benefits for very long. It's like eating our seed corn. That's what concerns me the most," said Kathleen Lynch, a former selectman.
"For the record, please go away," said Ben Milster, also a former selectman. "What does it take for you to go away," he asked.
"If it's not something you want we would go away," Boyd responded and he added that based on the sentiments expressed, it seemed a likely prospect.
Resident Michael Romanyshyn said his family would have to look at the turbines "every single day." He noted their night sky view would be obstructed by the lights at the top of the turbines. "I am totally against this and will fight it every step of the way."
Counter to the meeting's prevailing view, Ronald Rackliff, a member of the town's budget committee, spoke of the benefits of having a wind power farm take up residence here. Taxpayers' bills would be lower when the company helps fix some of the town's roads and once the towers are installed more of the town's overall tax burden would shift over to the energy company because of the increased valuation resulting from the development.
"I love this town so much," resident Steve Kaiser said. Should the wind turbines be installed, no amount of money would be able to provide enough compensation for the quality of life he currently enjoys, he added and was roundly applauded.
For any industrial development to proceed, the town's wind power ordinance would need to be amended or overturned by the majority of voters at a town meeting. The process to bring it to a town vote, according to the ordinance, is that a petition consisting of at least 10 percent of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election be filed and the registered voters verified as Temple residents by town officials.
At the gubernatorial election in 2014, a total of 279 Temple residents voted, which means a petition with 27 or 28 registered voters' signatures would be required to bring the question of amending or repealing the wind power ordinance to the town meeting warrant. Selectmen Jean Mitchell said after the meeting that gathering signatures and verification would all have to be completed before the town meeting warrant goes to print in mid-February.