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Wind-farm plans divide Freedom

FREEDOM -- When the old pickup truck's rumbling diesel engine chugged to a stop at the top of Beaver Ridge, only gusting wind whistling through the anemometer's steel guy wires broke the silence.

The spindly tower stood lonely on the hill, measuring wind speed, duration and direction as part of a scouting trip for a trio of wind turbines on a mission: to reduce the State of Maine's dependence on fossil fuels. If construction continues as planned, the 400-foot-tall turbines would produce enough power, 4.5 megawatts, to supply 2,000 households -- roughly six times the number sprawled in the town below them.

Clambering down from the driver's seat of his pickup, the owner of that portion of the ridge gestured expansively at the panorama. Steam rising from the Sappi paper mill and power plant 35 miles away in Skowhegan was clearly visible.

"How's that million-dollar view?" dairy farmer Ron Price asked, adding that on a clear day you can sometimes see Mount Katahdin.

Actually, it may become a $10 million view if Price and the partners at Competitive Energy Services continue with their plans.

But the view is one of the concerns the people of Freedom have brought to selectmen with regard to the project. Although many residents have expressed enthusiasm about the potential for Freedom to add the $10 million project to its tax base, others are worried that its presence nearby could lower their own... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The spindly tower stood lonely on the hill, measuring wind speed, duration and direction as part of a scouting trip for a trio of wind turbines on a mission: to reduce the State of Maine's dependence on fossil fuels. If construction continues as planned, the 400-foot-tall turbines would produce enough power, 4.5 megawatts, to supply 2,000 households -- roughly six times the number sprawled in the town below them.
 
Clambering down from the driver's seat of his pickup, the owner of that portion of the ridge gestured expansively at the panorama. Steam rising from the Sappi paper mill and power plant 35 miles away in Skowhegan was clearly visible.
 
"How's that million-dollar view?" dairy farmer Ron Price asked, adding that on a clear day you can sometimes see Mount Katahdin.
 
Actually, it may become a $10 million view if Price and the partners at Competitive Energy Services continue with their plans.
 
But the view is one of the concerns the people of Freedom have brought to selectmen with regard to the project. Although many residents have expressed enthusiasm about the potential for Freedom to add the $10 million project to its tax base, others are worried that its presence nearby could lower their own property values.
 
"Four hundred feet tall -- that's 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty," Carrie Bennett said. "These blades are the size of a jumbo jet -- and 800 feet from homes."
 
Carrie Bennett, whose land is located near the project site, wasn't as enthusiastic about the project as Price, who said he stands to receive a commission from energy sales if the project is completed. She said she might be more optimistic if the energy company had done more research.
 
"They could not possibly offset our taxes by 25 percent with three turbines," Carrie Bennett said. "That's insane. It doesn't make any sense. Everything I've read is all warm and fuzzy, and we're not getting any information from CES."
 
The chairman of the board of selectmen, Steve Bennett, said he'd heard similar complaints. The selectman is distantly related to Carrie Bennett.
 
"Something that high with two blinking strobe lights on it, how close do you have to be to have it impact you?" he said. "People are afraid of things that are new."
 
Steve Bennett said he'd heard concerns about noise pollution as well, but an energy company representative said they are unfounded.
 
"If they were noisy, you wouldn't be able to put them anywhere," Competitive Energy Services partner Rich Silkman said. "People will tell you, it doesn't make any noise."
 
Silkman said the 130-foot blades would spin quite slowly, taking three seconds to complete a single revolution, so turbines wouldn't pose a significant threat to birds, either. Any visual sacrifice is compensated by the freedom from overseas oil dependency the turbines represent, he said.
 
"First, they don't use oil, so you don't need to invade Iraq to get wind," Silkman said. "Second, there are no emissions ... Third, it's an investment in Maine and in Freedom."
 
The energy company hopes to complete construction of the turbines by the end of the summer of 2007, but selectmen and residents are calling for more research.
 
"For a town our size, this is going to be a huge issue for all of us to get an understanding," Steve Bennett said. "I hope we are able to take our time -- I hope it doesn't become a divisive issue for the town."
 
Selectmen may find that they are helpless to stop the project if they decide that it is not in the best interests of the town, Steve Bennett said. Refusing to issue a building permit might be meaningless, since Freedom's building ordinances say nothing about wind turbines, he said.
 
"We're pretty vulnerable," he said.


Source: http://morningsentinel.main...

MAR 18 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1750-wind-farm-plans-divide-freedom
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