Lincoln wind project draws diverse reactions

Posted Feb. 12, 2009, at 2:59 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:06 a.m.

LINCOLN — Patrick DeFilipp of Auburn views the proposed $130 million wind farm on Rollins Mountain as a kind of dream. Wendy Todd of Mars Hill sees it as a continuation of a nightmare.

Both spoke of the proposed $130 million industrial site at a state Department of Environmental Protection public meeting at Mattanawcook Academy on Wednesday. About 65 people attended the 1½-hour meeting, with many speaking for the record DEP is compiling as part of its project review, which is due to culminate with a decision by May 25.

If permitted by DEP and other agencies, a subsidiary of First Wind of Massachusetts will place 40 1½-megawatt turbines about 380 feet tall on a line of high ground running from Burlington through Lincoln to Lee. A new 135-kilovolt power cable would run the wholesale electricity from the project through Mattawamkeag to the New England power grid.

A senior project manager for Reed & Reed General Contractors of Woolwich, DeFilipp said his company and its subcontractors — as many as 200 workers — logged more than 145,000 hours helping install First Wind’s Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain wind farms.

That’s great for the state’s economy, DeFilipp said.

“We think the project is good for the state and the area,” DeFilipp said. “Wind power is one of few areas of investment in the state of Maine right now. It’s one of the few bright lights. It helps the tax base.

“First Wind is a first-class company,” he added. “Some of the negative comments we hear, I would suggest, come from people who don’t know the company firsthand.”

Todd described the horrors she said she has endured since First Wind put some of its Mars Hill turbines about 2,300 feet from her home more than a year ago. They include headaches, sleep deprivation, nausea and vertigo — all caused, she believes, by the low-level sound constantly emitted by the turbines.

Her house has also been damaged by underground blasting done during the turbine installation, she said. A recent chimney fire showed dozens of hairline fissures in the chimney that caused the house to fill with smoke. Contractors who examined the damage were stunned, she said.

“They could not understand how, in a house that is only three years old, a chimney could be in such condition,” Todd said.

Two independent appraisals of housing around the Mars Hill industrial site show declines in property values of 20 percent to 50 percent, she said, figures independent of the recent housing slump.

Brenda Goodwin, whose Lincoln home would be about 3,200 feet from the nearest Rollins Mountain turbine, said she bought a decibel meter three weeks ago. She has been taking readings daily, she said.

“I really enjoy the peace and quiet. I do not want to contend with the noise these things would be producing,” Goodwin said. She demanded that DEP deny the Rollins Mountain application to safeguard her health.

Other residents expressed fears that wind turbine syndrome, a collection of the problems Todd described, would strike Lincoln residents if the turbines were installed.

Dylan Voorhees, clean energy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said the wind farms were a great way to lessen dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels that damage the atmosphere.

“We are already making highly destructive choices on energy by default,” Voorhees said. “Our choices are do what we are doing now with our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, or take a different path, which includes more clean energy.”

First Wind has said that its projects comply with DEP regulations. Some residents complained that DEP doesn’t adequately enforce its regulations. DEP workers took names and addresses of speakers and will answer their questions and statements within a few days or as part of the review process, said Becky Maddox, a DEP staff member with the Division of Land Resource Regulation.

Anyone else wishing to add to the record may contact Maddox at DEP or attend future hearings, she said.

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