State regulators have given the green light for the development of 22 wind turbines in western Maine. The $120 million Record Hill Wind Project near Rumford is set to become Maine’s fourth major wind farm, and will be built on ridgelines of Partridge Peak, Flathead Mountain and Record Hill, around the town of Roxbury.
Among the project’s developers are former state governor Angus King, and Rob Gardiner, the former head of Maine Public Broadcasting, who also directed the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection issued the permit after a lengthy consultation process, says Andrew Fisk.
“We got a lot of very good information, not only from the experts in state government, but from the public. They gave us a lot of good information about the surrounding area and proposed impacts to the area.”
Fisk heads the Department’s Bureau of Land & Water Quality, and he’s hopeful that the DEP’s permit addresses some of the public concerns about the impact of windmills.
“The permit is specifically conditioned to ensure so that it meets the standards for noise, as well as wildlife impacts, and I think that we’ve constructed a very sound permit that is very specific and tells the applicant ‘this is how you need to build this facility, and this is how you need monitor this facility,'” Fisk says.
“I think it’s going to benefit us some, hopefully bring our taxes down like they say,” says local resident Douten Thomas. “We informed ourselves when they first come in, we went to Mars Hill and looked at them and talked to a lot of the residents and we can see where some people have concerns, and I think we’ll probably hear them a little bit, but I think the benefits outweigh the costs that we’re going to give up.”>/p>
Those benefits, says the DEP’s Andy Fisk, include free power. “The applicants have proposed that the local ratepayers within the town of Roxbury would be receiving, I believe it is, 500 kilowatts of electricity free each month for the next 20 years. So that’s an immediate tangible local benefit that was proposed by the developers, as required by the authorizing statute.”>/p>
The project’s also expected to create local employment opportunities – jobs to the value of $28 million, according to the DEP’s information sheet, although no specific job numbers were mentioned.
These incentives though are not enough to win over some residents. “Right now what we see is a pristine mountain range across the pond, and now what we’re going to have to look at is 22 wind turbines with a strobing red light on every other one,” says Chris Durant, who lives on Garland Pond in Roxbury.
Maine, he says, already produces enough enegy, and does not need to make any more. “If were hurting for power, we were buying power someplace else, that would be one thing, but to have to industrialize our mountaintops just so some people can make money and sell off a beautiful part of the state is just terrible to me.”>/p>
The 22 wind turbines will eventually have the capacity to produce more than 50 megawatts of elecrticity a year – that’s enough to power 15,000 homes.
The project is going to be connected to a Central Maine Power line grid so it can make money by feeding power back into the grid, and Fisk says that moves Maine in the right direction.
“When you seen wind energy being developed in Maine, there are certainly impacts on the state’s climate change goals, because we are working hard to get further imported sources of energy, and windpower is becoming a strong domestic source of energy generation,” he says.
He accepts however that a number of residents still have concerns over the wind farm, and he says a lot depends on how many residents decide to appeal the permit. Developers Angus King and Robert Gardiner did not respond to calls by air time.