By Betty Jespersen, Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — The Board of Directors of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce has voted to support TransCanada’s plan to construct and operate 44 wind turbines on mountains in northern Franklin County.
The multibillion dollar Canadian energy company has estimated the cost of the project at $270 million.
The chamber’s board met with a TransCanada representative and had questions about the economic impacts, the types of studies done in preparation for a development of this size and type, and where the power would be sold, according to chamber president Kent Wiles.
“All of our questions were answered to our satisfaction and we believe that this project and the company that would own and operate it, TransCanada, would be an excellent addition to Franklin County,” he said.
Opponents of the project, however, warn that the turbines would be an industrial project placed in Maine’s undeveloped wild lands. They say it will dominate the landscape and that it will be precedent setting if the Land Use Regulation Commission approves a zoning change and development permit to build in a mountain area protection zone.
In January, LURC rejected a similar wind farm proposed by Maine Mountain Power in Redington Township near Carrabassett Valley.
“People are rushing to find a solution to global warming but these projects have small benefit and their costs to Maine, in loss of its mountain resources, are high,” said Robert Kimber of Temple, a member of the Friends of the Boundary Mountains.
“The solution to global warming is demand reduction,” he said.
The wind farm is proposed along Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in the Boundary Mountains north of Eustis in Kibby and Skinner Townships. The project would have 44, 300-foot tall wind turbines, 25 miles of power collection lines, a substation, a service building and access roads.
According to company literature, the electricity generated would be capable of powering about 50,000 homes and would go into the electrical grid in Maine and other parts of New England.
To show its support for its host communities, TransCanada, which would pay about $1 million in property taxes to the state, would give the towns of Stratton and Eustis $100,000 a year, a company spokesman said in January.
During construction, 250 people would be employed for 12 to 18 months, with 10 to 12 permanent maintenance jobs upon completion, according to company literature.
In addition to boosting employment, the Kibby Wind Power Project would probably be one of the largest taxpayers in Franklin County’s unorganized territory, Wiles said.
“This type of clean, sustainable economic development sponsored by a socially responsible company is critically important to the future of Franklin County,” Wiles said.
The company has filed its application with the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission to rezone portions of the protected zones. According to LURC’s Marcia Spencer-Famous, the formal review process will begin this spring.