March 15, 2010

Work begins on Maine's largest wind farmWork starts on new Maine wind farm

— The Associated Press

KIBBY TOWNSHIP — Land clearing is under way for Maine's third major wind farm, a 44-turbine project in the western mountains that is projected to generate enough electricity to power 50,000 homes after its planned completion in 2010.

TransCanada's 132-megawatt project stands to become New England's largest.

The energy company, based in Calgary, Alberta, has received all permits to move forward with its project in Kibby and Skinner townships in northern Franklin County. Clearing for roughly 17 miles of roads has begun, as has other procurement and engineering work. Contractors are expected to start work on roads to the planned turbines this week.

Project Manager Wolfgang Neuhoff said plans call for having the first set of 22 turbines built and on line in December 2009, and the second set running in 2010.

A 28-unit wind farm in Mars Hill started producing power in 2007, and the 38-turbine Stetson Mountain project is well under way in eastern Maine. Mars Hill in northern Maine is by far New England's largest operating utility-grade wind farm.

An estimated 250 workers will be involved during construction of the $320 million Kibby project, and about a dozen will work during its operational phase.

Maine has adopted a friendly stance toward wind power, which is seen as a way to help wean the state from its heavy dependence on oil. Earlier this year, the Governor's Task Force on Wind Power recommended streamlined regulatory reviews for wind projects.

Its report envisioned at least 2,000 megawatts of wind power generated in the state by 2015, and 3,000 megawatts by 2020. It would take 1,000 to 2,000 turbines to create that much power.

Energy companies have come to Maine to test the terrain for large-scale projects.

Earlier this year, a scaled-down version of a wind farm proposed in western Maine was rejected by regulators, who cited concerns about its effect on scenery and its financial viability.

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