October 27, 2013

Big county, big ambitions for wind in Maine

Aroostook County becomes a major hub for wind power development.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 4)

Today's poll: Wind farms

Are two proposed wind farms in Aroostook County a positive development for the state?

Yes

No

View Results

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The Mars Hill wind farm, seen Wednesday, October 16, 2013, stretches the length of Mars Hill Mountain.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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From the back steps of her father’s camp on Number Nine Lake in Township 9, Range 3, Diane Libby looks out over the landscape that she worries will be adversely affected by a $500 million wind turbine project – the largest in New England – proposed by EDP Renewables. At top, turbines populate the ridges of Mars Hill Mountain in eastern Aroostook County, where First Wind built a large-scale project in 2007.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

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PUBLIC MEETINGS AND ACCEPTANCE

One of the sound easements was negotiated with Greg McNally. A Registered Maine Guide and a fur tanner, McNally lives on 20 acres of former pasture in a Katahdin log home. Sam Drew Mountain stretches beyond his patio door. It’s one of the Oakfield Hills, the rolling ridges that punctuate the town’s farm fields and woodlands.

McNally’s home is 2,000 feet from a turbine site, but he thinks the tree line will block the view. He has taken a few trips down to First Wind’s Stetson Wind Farm, in Washington County near Danforth, and decided he can live with the sound. In his opinion, the wind farm is a business that won’t require town services and will provide money to improve the roads.

“I didn’t have a problem with them going up in the first place,” he said. “I’d rather have these than a super Walmart or a nuke plant.”

McNally’s acceptance is typical of the reception wind power has gotten in Oakfield, according to Matt Kearn, First Wind’s vice president for business development. The lessons First Wind learned at Mars Hill have led it to increase turbine setbacks and seek more community input, he said. The Oakfield project was reviewed at 10 public meetings. The community benefits package was approved by a vote of 100-1. The tax agreement won 80-20.

Oakfield is scheduled to be on line in 2015. As work begins here, First Wind also has nine towers erected west of town that are collecting wind and weather data.

“We’re interested in doing more, long-term,” Kearn said.

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:tturkel@pressherald.com

 

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Additional Photos

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Jim Sholler, a former Oakfield selectman who chaired the town’s wind farm review committee, says some of the money the town receives as part of its deal with First Wind will go toward purchasing a new fire truck and building a new station.

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Dave Fowler, New England development director for First Wind, walks along a ridge in the Oakfield Hills this month. Thanks in part to a lucrative community benefits package, Oakfield has embraced plans by the company to build a 50-turbine wind farm scheduled to be online by 2015.

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Rodney Jones of Fort Fairfield stands on the dock of his wife’s family’s camp on Number Nine Lake in Township 9, Range 3 in central Aroostook County. Jones said he opposes a wind farm proposed by EDP Renewables. “Nobody wants to see windmills along the lake,” he said.

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Town Manager Dale Morris says he’s proud of Oakfield’s deal with First Wind. “This is stabilizing the town,” he said. “Done the right way, it’s setting Oakfield up for quite some time.” For years, there hasn’t been enough revenue to pave the roads.

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Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer The Mars Hill wind farm, active since 2007, offers Aroostook County residents a glimpse of a large-scale operation. Officials with First Wind say the lessons from Mars Hill led the company to increase turbine setbacks and seek more community input.



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Today's poll: Wind farms

Are two proposed wind farms in Aroostook County a positive development for the state?

Yes

No

View Results