Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wind Hearing....

Were you there? What did you think?

Lincoln wind farm gets mixed reviews

By Nick Sambides Jr.


LINCOLN, Maine - Al Roy gets a lovely view of the sun rising over Rollins Mountain and glinting off Egg Pond. So do fellow Egg Pond Road residents Harry Washburn and Donald Smith.

The three attended a public hearing at Mattanawcook Academy on Wednesday to see how Evergreen Wind Power LLC’s proposed $120 million wind farm would appear if it gets Maine Department of Environmental Protection approval and is built on Rollins Mountain.

They examined several drawings and photographs depicting the 40 1.5-megawatt windmills. Then came their verdict:

"It’s hideous," Roy said.

"If I had known it [the wind farm] would look like this," Washburn said, "I would never have put in all the work I have done on my place."

"If this project goes through," Roy said, "it should be postponed for two years so landowners near it can sell their properties."

Conversely, resident Alan Smith thought the project would help satisfy the state’s growing electricity demand.

"Do you want to look at that," Smith said of the windmills, "or a smokestack? I would love to look out the window and see nothing but nature, but that’s unrealistic. I still want to turn on the light switch, too."

At least 65 people attended the DEP-required hearing. If approved, the 389-foot windmills would run through Lincoln from Burlington to Lee and Winn. Lincoln would have 19 or 20 turbines; Winn, three; Lee, seven; and Burlington, 12. Two turbine sites are listed as alternates, company officials have said.

The project would generate as much as 60 megawatts at peak periods and include 8.8 miles of 115,000-volt electrical line, an interconnection facility in Mattawamkeag, a substation in Lee and an operations facility in Lincoln, Evergreen officials said.

About 12.6 miles of new roads, and 3.7 miles of improvements to existing roads, will also occur.

Wind farm critics contend that they are noisy eyesores that foil landscapes, often fail to generate their peak capacities, and — given that their electricity often is sold elsewhere in New England — provide little direct benefit to host municipalities.

Proponents say the farms create no air or water pollution; lessen dependency on oil; and tap into a limitless natural resource while hedging against the electricity droughts seen in California.

Evergreen claims the project will generate 168 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Evergreen is a subsidiary of First Wind of Massachusetts, the state’s largest producer of wind-to-energy facilities. First Wind is building a 38-turbine farm on Stetson Mountain between Danforth and Springfield and operating a 28-turbine wind farm in Mars Hill.

The company will submit its Rollins Mountain application to DEP by October, said Ryan Chayters, a senior development associate with First Wind.

Mars Hill resident Wendy Todd had a message for Rollins Mountain-area residents — be cautious.

"First Wind had a job to do: to sell this project," said Todd, who believes the Mars Hill project’s problems outweigh its benefits. "They don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole truth. Consider everything you hear very carefully."

As examples: the Natural Resources Council of Maine accurately states that Mars Hill will receive $500,000 annually for 20 years for hosting the project, but doesn’t mention that the state Department of Education effectively reduced that figure by $249,000 by factoring the new money into its assessments.

They said First Wind employed 300 people during the Mars Hill construction, but most came from southern Maine, she said. Few local contractors or residents were qualified to do the work. And the noise the project makes, she said, is occasionally nightmarish.

"My worries are that small towns have no one to help them to understand these projects as a whole," Todd said. "They don’t know what to expect. They cannot fathom these things."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lincoln announces wind farm hearing

Lincoln is having a local hearing on the Wind Power project this Wednesday at Mattanawcook Academy from 6-9 pm. I will be there, will you?


By
Nick Sambides Jr.


LINCOLN, Maine - Evergreen Wind Power LLC will hold a hearing Wednesday on its plans to build a $120 million wind farm in Burlington, Lee, Winn and Lincoln. It would be the largest such electricity-generating facility in New England.

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Fast Facts

WHO: Evergreen Wind Power LLC, a subsidiary of First Wind of Massachusetts, the state’s largest producer of wind-to-energy facilities.
WHAT: Public hearing.
WHERE: Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln.
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19.
WHY: This is the first opportunity for extensive public comment on Evergreen’s proposed $120 million wind farm, the largest such electricity-generating facility, in New England, in Burlington, Lee, Winn and Lincoln.

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The hearing is part of the company’s efforts to secure permits to build 40 1.5-megawatt windmills creating as much as 60 megawatts of electricity on sites in the four towns. Evergreen is a subsidiary of First Wind of Massachusetts, the state’s largest producer of wind-to-energy facilities.

The windmills would be built on two sites on the Rollins Mountain range and Rocky Dundee Road areas, which run north to south through Lincoln from Burlington to Lee and Winn. Lincoln would have 19 or 20 turbines; Winn, three; Lee, seven; and Burlington, 12. Two turbine sites are listed as alternates, company officials have said.

The company also would install a 115,000-volt transmission line that would run from the north end of Rollins Mountain to a Mattawamkeag connection to the New England grid.

Interim Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said the hearing is a required and integral part of Evergreen’s Rollins Mountain application before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies. The hearing will be at Mattanawcook Academy from 6 to 9 p.m. The public is invited.

Evergreen’s success is far from assured. Wind farm critics contend that they are noisy eyesores that upset the natural beauty of landscapes, fail to generate anywhere close to their peak capacities, and — given that their electricity often is sold elsewhere in New England — provide little direct benefit to host municipalities.

Still, the town continues to work on developing a tax-break agreement with Evergreen that would help the project be built and operate should it be approved.

"We have made our agreements for them to pay for our attorneys and consulting fees and we expect to have the TIF agreements ready for a public hearing in the next month or two," Goodwin said Thursday. "That’s our hope. It depends on their work."

First Wind is building a 38-turbine farm in Stetson Mountain between Danforth and Springfield and operating a 28-turbine wind farm in Mars Hill. That work, and efforts to install a 38-mile, 115,000-volt line from Stetson to the Keene Substation in Chester, already have provided economic benefits to the town, Goodwin said.

As many as 300 workers are helping build Stetson and the new electrical line.

"They are staying in our hotels, eating in our establishments and utilizing our stores," Goodwin said.

One primary line construction firm, PowerTel Utilities Contractors LTD of Ontario, temporarily moved into a former Chevrolet dealership on Route 2 on July 1. About 65 workers, including subcontractors, work and store equipment there.

The firm will be there until the job is finished, probably by December, said Scott Ingraham, project manager.

"This is an ideal situation for us, because we have lots of yard space to repair and store things," Ingraham said.

Warehouse supervisor Shawn Picard was glad the company got the Stetson Mountain job. A Millinocket resident and Maine Maritime Academy student, the 20-year-old was pleased to be working closer to home than Nova Scotia and Ontario, the company’s previous work sites.

More direct benefits are expected when First Wind selects a town location for an office that will oversee its northern Maine operations. Its search is ongoing, Goodwin said.

Company officials did not immediately return messages seeking comment Thursday.