LINCOLN, Maine — Nadia Wotton swims in the waters of Long Pond near the gentle slopes of Rollins Mountain every day in the summer. She spends half the year in a camp along the edge of the water, and she doesn’t take it for granted, she said Tuesday.
“My fear is that the aesthetics, the whole feel of the area and the views of the ridge, I really feel that this will be gone soon,” Wotton said. “That’s my biggest fear.”
That’s why Wooton is a member of the newly formed Friends of Rollins Ridge group, an organization of about a dozen town residents that is investigating, and likely will oppose, a proposed $120 million wind farm that, if approved, will go on sites in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn, including Rollins Mountain.
First Wind of Massachusetts will apply by the end of the year for permits to build 40 1.5-megawatt windmills creating as much as 60 megawatts of electricity through Evergreen Wind Power, a subsidiary of First Wind.
Lincoln would have 19 or 20 turbines; Winn, three; Lee, seven; and Burlington, 12. Two turbine sites are listed as alternates. 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.
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. First Wind advertises its projects as creating no air or water pollution, lessening dependency on oil and tapping into a limitless natural resource while hedging against the electricity droughts seen in California.
First Wind claims the Lincoln project will generate 168 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.
The Friends of Rollins Ridge group is not generally opposed to wind power, but questions whether a wind farm is a good fit with such a pristine area as Long Pond, said Bagley Mountain Road resident Gary Steinberg.
“The fact that so many changes will be coming with this project and that we’re dealing with a company that is coming from out of state has me wondering whether we are … getting into something that we cannot get out of,” said Harry C. Epp, a Folsom Pond Road resident and group member.
The group fears that the project will create noise and flickering light with its massive windmill blades, which will disturb nearby residents and wildlife, decrease property values, be an eyesore and provide no immediate or direct benefit to town electricity users, who buy electricity retail from Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.
The project is slated to sell electricity wholesale to the New England grid.
Residents near the Mars Hill wind farm owned by First Wind have complained of noise that disrupts their sleep and also about decreased property values. First Wind has responded by saying that the project makes little noise and complies with Maine Department of Environmental Protection regulations regarding noise.
Wotton said that the group is just beginning its research. She wishes that the project’s timetable would slow down, perhaps by the town declaring a moratorium on wind farm development, until everybody else can catch up.
The group has some time. First Wind has said it will not be applying for DEP and Lincoln planning board permits until the end of the year.
Ruth Birtz, Lincoln’s economic development director, said that an Audubon Society study of the company’s Mars Hill site found no significant avian or animal displacement caused by the windmills there.
Lincoln and First Wind, as well as the other municipalities, also are still negotiating tax breaks for the company if the project is approved. Several proposals will likely be ready for Lincoln’s Town Council in December, Birtz said.
The Friends of Rollins Ridge group, meanwhile, wants to have meetings, recruit more members, speak to the council about the project, tour the Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain sites with councilors and planning board members and continue its research.
“Lincoln could become a completely different place because of this project,” Steinberg said.