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Maine Poised to Approve State’s Largest Wind Farm

The Department of Environmental Protection issues a draft order to approve the project, but it's still subject to public comment

Posted on Sep 4 2014 by Scott Gibson

Regulators from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have signed off on a proposal to build a 62-turbine wind project, the state's largest.

The Bangor Daily News reports that a draft order approving the proposal from a subsidiary of First Wind of Boston, Massachusetts, is subject to public comment and further review. But even critics think the project is likely to win final approval.

The $398 million wind farm in the Bingham area, about 50 miles west Bangor, would have a total rated capacity of 186 megawatts.

Its supporters say the project will make the region's power grid more reliable and provide an economic boost to the state.

Critics object to the project's potential impact on wildlife, the environment, and the tourist industry, a major employer in the state. Further, a group called Friends of Maine Mountains, objects to the land-use permit authorizing construction on grounds that First Wind is not setting aside enough money for the eventual decommissioning of the project.

"I won't say that I'm overly optimistic that DEP is going to do anything different than what's in the draft," Friends of Maine Mountains president Chris O'Neil told the paper, "but we're going to take one shot at pointing out some weaknesses in ... the applicant's materials."

Maine ranks 26th in nation for wind energy

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Maine has a total installed wind capacity of 431 megawatts in 13 separate projects, making it 26th in the country. Wind now provides about 7.5% of the state's electricity.

According to AWEA, the state set wind energy goals in 2008 that will require a total of 2,000 MW of installed capacity by 2015.

There is still some question about that financial underpinnings for the project. The developer won approval for a financial partnership to pay for wind development in July after a Maine Supreme Judicial Court review. But the decision is apparently still open to further appeal by one of the intervenors in the case.

But O'Neil says his group is focused on delaying wind projects, not defeating them, the Bangor paper reported. "If we can slow them down, we consider that victory," he said.

The wind farm would span a number of communities. The developer has already signed agreements to provide annual payments of $176,000 to Kingsbury Plantation, $106,000 to Bingham, and $20,000 each to Abbott, Parkman and Moscow, the newspaper said.

Public comments are being accepted until September 4.


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