Looking to expand its considerable array of northern Maine wind farms, First Wind of Massachusetts has placed two test towers atop mountains just north of its Stetson Mountain site, a company official said Wednesday.
The towers are atop Jimmey and Owl mountains, said Ryan Chayters, a senior development associate with First Wind, the state’s largest producer of wind power.
Chayters is helping Evergreen Wind Power LLC prepare its proposed $120 million Rollins Mountain project in the Lincoln Lakes region for the permit application process. Chayters spoke at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln on Wednesday night during the company’s first public hearing.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection requires the hearing as part of its application process, although Evergreen, a subsidiary of First Wind, is about a month away from filing its DEP application.
The mountains stand about six and 6.5 miles southwest of Danforth, the town closest to them, and are about five miles north of Stetson. Located in Washington County, Jimmey Mountain has a summit that climbs to 896 feet above sea level. Also in Washington County, Owl is 735 feet tall, according to mountainzone.com.
Test towers are a first step among many before the company seeks permit approvals, company officials have said. They gather data usually over a period of several months that the company uses to determine whether enough wind flows over the site to make an electricity farm feasible.
The placement of towers does not guarantee a wind farm. Company officials also must secure permission for windmill placement from landowners before proceeding with permit applications.
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 farm on Stetson Mountain, which peaks at 1,070 feet above sea level, will be finished by the end of the year, First Wind officials have said.
A 38-unit farm, Stetson is expected to generate 57 megawatts at peak times, company officials have said. Rollins, meanwhile, is expected to 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, also will occur.
Wind farm critics contend that they are noisy eyesores that foul 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.