MARS HILL – With materials on the ground and contractors on site, a Bangor-based corporation is moving forward on its project to develop a wind farm in northern Maine.
Evergreen Wind Power LLC has worked for four years and is spending about $54 million to create the Mars Hill Wind Farm, which involves locating 28 wind turbines on Mars Hill Mountain.
The turbines, which will stand about 380 feet from the ground to the top of the windmill blade, will be erected on about 150 acres of local property. The wind turbines are expected to generate about 42 megawatts of electricity.
Andy Perkins, project manager for Evergreen Wind Power, said Wednesday that the corporation is in the initial stages of construction right now and that officials expect to begin generating power in Aroostook County by this fall.
“I’ve been involved with the project from concept and it’s wonderful,” Perkins said of reaching this point in the project. “It’s a dream come true. … It’s a wonderful opportunity for the state of Maine, Aroostook County and Mars Hill.”
Perkins said that with oversight from contractors – Sargent Corp. of Stillwater is handling the site work and Maine Public Service Co. in Presque Isle is doing the electrical infrastructure – about 15 workers are now moving in equipment and clearing areas that need to be prepared for roads and tower site pads. Perkins said that at peak construction, there could be up to 150 workers on site. He added that with a local surveyor, environmental reviewers and materials testing officials on board, there is a “big presence of County folks involved in this project.”
Some materials, including blades for the turbines which arrived at the Searsport dock Wednesday morning, will not be trucked up to Mars Hill until crews have finished preparing the 28 individual tower sites.
Perkins said that contractors expect to have the turbines erected possibly as soon as mid-June, to have site work and the electrical infrastructure completed by early fall, and to “go commercial” by late fall. He said that the corporation is looking at several possible purchasers for the power the wind farm will generate and that officials expect to have a contract wrapped up in the next month.
As construction moves forward, town officials and some Mars Hill residents remain at odds over the project.
Several Mars Hill residents have stated they do not want the wind farm in their backyards, but have been told by town officials that they could not vote on whether the company should be allowed to come to town because it effectively would mean telling private landowners what they could do with their property. Evergreen has a lease agreement with several local landowners allowing the company to construct turbines on their property.
Town officials have said the move will be a boon economically for Mars Hill.
“I’m extremely glad to see it happen,” Town Council Chairman Todd Grass said Wednesday.
“Number one, it’s a benefit to the town, and number two, it’s a benefit to the environment because it’s green power. … As far as we know, the landowners involved are all happy. It helps the tax base, and from what we’ve gathered, we may get people coming to the area to look at them – kind of a tourism thing on a minor scale.”
Town officials secured approval from the Department of Economic and Community Development to designate the property on which the wind farm will be located as a Tax Increment Financing district. The designation caps the taxes Evergreen pays to Mars Hill at no more than $250,000 per year for the next 20 years, starting in 2007.
Perkins said that once the turbines are up, he hopes any worries people might have had about the project will dissipate.
“I’ve been to several projects that are completed – have the same turbine design we’re doing – that have been integrated into the community very nicely,” he said. “I think this is going to be a positive project, and I don’t think it’s going to impact the people very much at all.”
The company is providing a toll-free number, (800) 984-9463, for residents with questions about the project. Officials said that inquiries will be detailed and sent on to the project manager.