First Wind Holdings LLC and Emera Inc. say they have formalized a venture to jointly own and operate wind energy projects in the Northeast through a new company called Northeast Wind Partners.

Emera has invested $211 million to acquire 49 percent of Northeast Wind Partners. Emera also is making a $150 million loan to a subsidiary of Northeast Wind Partners, to be repaid in five years.

Halifax-based Emera owns Maine utilities Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co.

“This is a really good movement to secure the financial strength and security for responsible wind energy, which is good for our economy and our environment,” said Paul Williamson, director of the Maine Wind Industry Initiative.

Under the agreement, Massachusetts-based First Wind’s portfolio of wind energy projects in the Northeast, including eight operating projects in three states, has been transferred to Northeast Wind Partners. First Wind owns 51 percent of the new venture.

“First Wind seems to find ways to survive,” said Brad Blake, an opponent of wind energy and spokesman for the Citizen Task Force on Wind Power. “I see this deal as one more desperate attempt at trying to stay alive.”

First Wind will serve as the managing partner and continue to operate the wind projects. Emera’s affiliate Emera Energy Services will provide energy management services.

First Wind will continue to develop wind projects in the Northeast. Once the projects meet certain eligibility criteria, First Wind said, is has the ability to transfer new projects into the joint venture.

In the last six years, First Wind has built eight projects in the Northeast, including wind farms in Mars Hill and Danforth.

It has another project, called Bull Hill Wind in Hancock County, but that is not part of the joint venture, said First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne.

In April, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved the venture, despite its staff recommendation to oppose it. The staff said the venture could lead to higher energy prices. Still, the PUC backed the project, citing potential economic benefits.

Emera and First Wind said the joint venture could lead to as much as $3 billion in future economic investment in the region in the coming years.

But Blake said the industrial wind farms will hurt Maine’s tourism industry more than they will benefit the state economically from energy production.

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]