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.
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.”>/p>
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.