BELFAST, Maine — The first turbine blades for the Kibby Wind Power project rolled through the city Thursday, briefly slowing traffic and proceeding toward their destination without a hitch.
“It’s almost funny what the reality is to what we were afraid of at the front end,” said City Manager Joseph Slocum, as the first transport truck rounded the intersection of Routes 1 and 3 and continued its journey to western Maine. “It’s almost hard to imagine what we were worried about.”
The shipments of components will traverse the city from the Searsport docks five days a week, weather permitting, well into July. City officials were concerned about traffic jams during the tourist season, but the majority of the components will be transported without having to stop traffic. Each truck will have a state police escort on its five-hour journey from the coast to the mountains.
The biggest components, the nacelles, which house the turbine generators, are too big to pass under two overpasses above Route 1 and need to detour around them. Those pieces will be moved during the early morning hours and will require stopping traffic as they travel from Veterans Memorial Bridge to the Routes 1 and 3 intersection.
Twenty-two nacelles will be shipped along that route this year, and another 22 will move next year. Slocum and other city officials watched from one of the overpasses when the first nacelle came through the city at 2 a.m. Thursday.
“There was nothing to it,” he said. “If you blinked, it was over.
TransCanada Maine Wind Development is constructing a 44-turbine, 132-megawatt project on two sites on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Ridge north of Flagstaff Lake. When completed, it will be the largest wind farm in the state.
Each tower will have four sections plus the nacelle. Each turbine will have three blades. The initial phase of the $320 million project is scheduled to be up and running by the end of this year, and the second should be completed by winter 2010, project manager Wolfgang Neuhoff said.
When the 44 V-90 turbines are at full production, the facility will generate enough electricity to meet the needs of 50,000 homes. The components are supplied by Vestas of Denmark, a world leader in wind power. Vestas will operate and maintain the wind towers for the first five years before turning management over to Calgary, Alberta-based TransCanada.
Reed & Reed of Woolwich is the lead contractor on the project, and Cianbro Corp. is building the transmission lines from the turbines. Besides erecting the 44 towers, Reed & Reed also built the roads leading to the two mountain sites. The generated power will be sent to a substation, and from there to a transmission line linked to the New England power grid.
Also on hand to watch the components pass through the city was Judy Berk, communications director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. Berk said an NRCM official served on the governor’s Wind Power Task Force that formulated the rules for siting wind projects in Maine. NRCM is a strong supporter of wind power, Berk said.
“We’ve been very supportive of wind power, particularly this project,” she said. “We always look at the appropriateness of the site and we examine each application very carefully. We look at the environmental aspects of the proposal; whether endangered species will be threatened. We don’t really look at the aesthetics. We look at the environmental impact of the alternatives to wind power, coal, oil, nuclear power. When we compare the wind sites in Maine, we look at that part of it.”