Article

Critics urge big cutback in wind farm

AUGUSTA -- A week before hearings on a controversial wind farm project are scheduled to begin, an influential environmental group is calling for deep changes in the proposal. The Natural Resources Council of Maine on Wednesday asked Maine Mountain Power, which has applied to erect 30 turbines on two Franklin County mountain ridges, to drop plans to use the Redington Pond Range.

AUGUSTA -- A week before hearings on a controversial wind farm project are scheduled to begin, an influential environmental group is calling for deep changes in the proposal.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine on Wednesday asked Maine Mountain Power, which has applied to erect 30 turbines on two Franklin County mountain ridges, to drop plans to use the Redington Pond Range.

That would reduce the maximum capacity of the project from 90 megawatts to 54, according to Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the council, but he said it would also reduce environmental objections to the project and make it more likely to be approved.

One of the developers of the project, however, said Wednesday afternoon that dropping the Redington ridge from the proposal -- the other site is Black Nubble Mountain -- would make the project financially unfeasible.

He said the project is designed to minimize environmental impacts and would offer Maine residents a competitive, stable source of power produced without greenhouse gases.

The plan to reduce the scale of the wind farm underscores the importance environmentalists place on the Redington Pond Range and on wind power in general.

Fueling interest in... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

AUGUSTA -- A week before hearings on a controversial wind farm project are scheduled to begin, an influential environmental group is calling for deep changes in the proposal.

The Natural Resources Council of Maine on Wednesday asked Maine Mountain Power, which has applied to erect 30 turbines on two Franklin County mountain ridges, to drop plans to use the Redington Pond Range.

That would reduce the maximum capacity of the project from 90 megawatts to 54, according to Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the council, but he said it would also reduce environmental objections to the project and make it more likely to be approved.

One of the developers of the project, however, said Wednesday afternoon that dropping the Redington ridge from the proposal -- the other site is Black Nubble Mountain -- would make the project financially unfeasible.

He said the project is designed to minimize environmental impacts and would offer Maine residents a competitive, stable source of power produced without greenhouse gases.

The plan to reduce the scale of the wind farm underscores the importance environmentalists place on the Redington Pond Range and on wind power in general.

Fueling interest in wind power is a combination of improved technology, federal tax credits, the volatile cost of fossil fuels and a growing market for green power.

Maine, which has the highest wind resource in New England, could see an explosion in its wind power generation capacity in the next five years, an explosion which could pay economic dividends for state rate payers, say utility experts.

But while wind power offers economic and environmental benefits, siting it also forces sometimes difficult trade-offs.

The tension created by the competing pros and cons of wind power are nowhere more evident than on Redington Pond Range.

Home to rare species like Bicknell's thrush and the northern bog lemming, which is listed as threatened in Maine, the mountain is the only undeveloped 4000-foot peak in Maine that isn't protected, according to Didisheim.

It is also within about a mile of the Appalachian Trail.

"Of the sites that are available, this is about as controversial a site as you could pick," he said.

An array of environmental groups is opposing the 90-megawatt proposal despite the fact that it would provide a stable source of clean power because of concerns it would cause a loss of habitat and other impacts in a pristine part of the state.

Didisheim said he believes those concerns -- due to surface publicly in testimony offered at a Land Use Regulation Commission hearing next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday -- could well defeat the project.

He said by agreeing to reduce the scope of the project, the developer could well save the proposal.

"We think the chance of failure of the application is significant and we genuinely feel like we are offering a bit of a lifeline here if they take it," said Didisheim.

He said a study commissioned by the Natural Resources Council of Maine found that the reconfigured project would still be economically viable.

Harley Lee, president of Endless Energy Corp., one of the two partners developing the Redington site, disagreed.

Lee said removing the Redington Pond Ridge would financially cripple the project.

"You would basically have to take the whole project apart and put it back together again," he said.

Even then, he said, the only way it could work economically is by dramatically raising prices.

Surveys have found that the public supports the project by a 9-to-1 margin, said Lee. He characterized the opposition as a vocal minority with a narrow perspective.

He said the final footprint is about 87 acres and biologists hired by his group have done several studies that have found it will have little impact on the species in the area.

In contrast, he said that if global warming continues, habitat critical to Bicknell's thrush and the northern bog lemming will be "toast."

"Basically, what (the environmental groups who oppose the project) are doing is they are comparing wind power with nothing and when you compare wind power with nothing, nothing wins," he said.

Alan Crowell -- 474-9534, Ext. 342

acrowell@centralmaine.com


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

JUL 27 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3666-critics-urge-big-cutback-in-wind-farm
back to top