June 17, 2013

Group opposes $400 million Maine wind project

The proposal, supported by local officials, would put 62 turbines in Somerset and Piscataquis counties.

By RACHEL OHM Morning Sentinel

BINGHAM – 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.

Blue Sky West, a subsidiary of First Wind Inc., filed an application on May 10 for a wind farm project in Somerset and Piscataquis counties and is waiting for approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection to determine whether it will proceed with the project. Construction could begin in 2014.

The department will have 10 months to determine whether to approve the proposal, DEP spokeswoman Jessamine Logan said Monday.

Meanwhile, officials in Bingham and Moscow, two communities that will be affected, have said they support the project, although a local environmentally focused nonprofit group has said that it will oppose it.

The project would be built on ridges and hills along state Route 16 in the communities of Bingham, Moscow, Mayfield Township, Kingsbury Plantation, Abbot and Parkman, according to the application. Eleven turbines are proposed for Bingham, 29 in Mayfield and 22 in Kingsbury. First Wind has five operating wind farms in Maine and is developing a project in Oakfield.

According to Chris O'Neil, director of government relations for Friends of Maine Mountains in Weld, a nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of natural resources, reliable energy and affordable power, the organization plans to submit letters of opposition if the application by First Wind is accepted.

"It might be worth it if there was the demand for new sources of electricity, but it's something we don't really need," O'Neil said. He said Maine is already one of the nation's cleanest electricity-generating states, even while wind power in Maine provides less than 5 percent of New England's electricity.

Bingham First Selectman Steve Steward said the town also has a community benefits agreement with First Wind, under which it will receive $8,000 per year for each tower the company builds in Bingham, which amounts to an estimated $106,000 per year for 20 years, he said.

In November, Moscow approved a similar plan, which will provide the town about $20,000 a year for 20 years.

 

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

rohm@mainetoday.com

 

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