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Lynne Williams, an attorney who represents two anti-wind groups, said First Wind's plans "would devastate the natural landscape" if they are approved. "It is bad enough what is already there. To just go ahead and colonize the ridgelines in Maine is not only morally wrong but I have some real issues with the so-called environmental community in Maine for allowing this to happen."
"In addition, while the project area is designated as part of the expedited permitting area for wind energy projects, the great ponds are primarily located in the only area in southern and eastern Maine that is not designated as a wind expedited area, which is the Downeast Lakes Region."
The board originally set off a firestorm involving Gov. Paul LePage and DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho in March when it overturned Aho's recommendation that the project be rejected. The board voted 5-1. Aho turned down the application in November 2012 based on the negative visual impact the project would have on the area.
Fowler said he is not sure when construction might begin. It depends on when First Wind secures a power purchase agreement with a power distributor, he said. The company has yet to secure such an agreement for its approved Oakfield Wind project in the Aroostook County town of the same name, but could move ahead with both simultaneously if it gets power purchase agreements for both, he said.
Staff members who reviewed the proposed wind farm said that it would have "an unreasonably adverse impact" on the views of eight lakes that are among 14 "Scenic Resources of State or National Significance" within 8 miles of the project site.
About a hundred people turned out for a public meeting on plans to build what could be the largest wind farm in Maine, stretching across parts of Somerset and Piscataquis counties.
A 62-turbine wind farm would bring a lot of money to the small communities in northern Somerset County, but some residents at a public hearing Monday night said they are concerned about what it would do to the character of the area.
Mike Bond of Winthrop, who said he had worked in the electricity and energy business for 30 years, warned that the project would have devastating effects on the area. "This project, in my opinion, will ruin this community," said Bond, adding that he worked with Al Gore on renewable energy. Because of the division of opinions, "you will hate each other."
The project by Blue Sky West, a subsidiary of First Wind Inc., is being reviewed by the department and the company is awaiting a decision to be made in November on its approval. The wind farm would include turbines in Bingham, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation and other buildings and support property in Moscow, Abbot and Parkman.
Town planners heard oral arguments Thursday about sound levels and tower heights before reviewing their October 2011 permit for Pisgah Mountain wind farm, as ordered by a Superior Court judge who remanded the case to them.
"It's an unprecedented time for the department," said Bergeron. "We currently have more applications in appeal and review than we have had approved applications in the last nine years. It's fair to say we are underwater with wind."
The wind energy industry, both offshore and onshore, has been dogged by questions about its cost and whether it can compete in electric power markets that increasingly are tapping natural gas as a low-cost energy source due to the rapidly expanding U.S. domestic production. Other headwinds threatening to stall Maine's fledgling wind power industry include investors' uncertainties about the future of the federal Production Tax Credit and the volatility of energy markets.
Blue Sky West LLC and Blue Sky West II LLC, subsidiaries of First Wind Energy LLC, had an application approved by the DEP in May for the Bingham Wind Project that will place 11 turbines in Bingham, 29 in Mayfield Township and 22 in Kingsbury Plantation. Towns of Moscow, Abbot and Parkman will have work related to the project, but no turbines.
Sen. Seth Goodall of Richmond, the Senate Democratic leader, said. "These are very complicated issues. We need to look at these issues comprehensively, to strike the right balance between economics, people and the process." (Goodall's district includes the Woolwich headquarters of Reed and Reed, which describes itself as "having built nearly every commercial scale wind project in the State.")
A Boston-based wind power developer that wants to build a $398 million, 62-turbine wind farm in the area has encountered opposition from a local nonprofit group as the company begins the permitting process.
A Superior Court judge has ordered town planners to reconsider two items - tower heights and sound levels - from its October 2011 approval of Pisgah Mountain wind farm, and the local panel decided Wednesday not to allow public comment during the remand process.
Bingham’s turbines, on the other hand, would be more than 90 meters tall and, depending on the equipment the company chooses, have a rotor diameter of 112 or 113 meters, he said. This all leads to an increase in output. While the older machines have a generating capacity of 1.5 megawatts, the new turbines have a generating capacity of 3 megawatts.
"One disappointing aspect of the legislation is it does not address wind energy policies whatsoever ...". LePage is pushing to remove a 100 megawatt cap in the state's renewable energy portfolio standard. ...After the vote on the overall bill Friday the committee also voted to "lay over" a bill that will address the 100 megawatt cap issue. The bill would be taken up in the second half of this lawmaking session, which starts next January.
Since 2008, the amount of energy it outputs into the electricity grid varies greatly, resulting in monthly credits from $1 to $250. In the six-month period from August 2012 to January 2013, the city received a total combined credit of $76.53 for electricity generated by the windmill. In that same period, the total amount billed to the city for the Amtrak station's electricity usage was $9,155.50.
LePage's energy director, Patrick Woodcock, made recommendations Thursday to rewrite the state's 2008 Wind Energy Act, shifting focus from growing wind energy capacity to lowering electricity costs and making sure Maine sees an economic return on its wind energy investments.