July 23, 2013

Maine residents divided on wind turbines

The biggest wind farm in the state could bring significant cash, but it could also mar the rural scene in northern Somerset County.

By RACHEL OHM Morning Sentinel

MOSCOW – A 62-turbine wind farm would bring a lot of money to the small communities in northern Somerset County, but some residents at a public hearing Monday night said they are concerned about what it would do to the character of the area.

Residents from Bingham, Moscow, Lexington Township and the surrounding areas spoke at a public hearing Monday night, many in support of the project, proposed by Boston-based First Wind, saying it will bring needed money.

Those opposed said the project, which would be the biggest wind farm in the state, poses a threat to the environment and the rural peace of the largely undeveloped land.

Mark Bergeron, a representative for the Department of Environmental Protection, said the meeting was held to gather public input on First Wind's application, a decision on which will be made by the department in November.

The project would have 11 turbines of up to 492 feet high in Bingham, 22 in Kingsbury Plantation and 29 in Mayfield Township.

First Wind and some of the organizations and towns in the proposed wind farm's area have struck "community benefits agreements" that would bring money to the towns.

Kingsbury Plantation would get the most money – $176,000 a year for 20 years from the company. Bingham would get about $88,000 a year for 20 years and Moscow would get $20,000 for 20 years, according to First Wind.

Leo Hill, a Bingham resident, said the economic benefit to the town is the main reason he supports the project.

"I am very much in favor of this project. We are desperately in need of the revenue. Every year ... comes up before the school board the question of whether we should close one of the schools," said Hill, a member of the board of directors for School Administrative District 13 and the owner of Gateway Recreation & Lodging in Bingham.

Opponents of the project say its effects on the environment could be devastating with very little returns.

David Corrigan, 35, of Concord Township, a registered Maine Guide who leads hunting, fishing and recreational trips in the area, said he was concerned about preserving the area's rural character and he hoped the department would take into account the welfare of wildlife in the area, specifically golden eagles. He said the birds are known to inhabit the ridges where the turbines are proposed.

Mike Bond, a former executive with the energy company CEnergy and an energy consultant, said wind energy contributes less than 1 percent of the nation's electricity.

"It's not worth it. The effect on your communities will be tragic," he said.

There were also a few people who hadn't taken a position.

Lou Sidell, a resident of Kingsbury Plantation and the town's first assessor, said that as a town official he was neither for nor against the project.

The small community, which has only 27 year-round residents but about 200 landowners, has people both in support of and against the project, said Sidell.

According to the town's most recent comprehensive plan survey, however, most residents said they did not want to see the rural character of the area change.

 

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

rohm@mainetoday.com

 

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