May 24, 2018
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Firm testing wind energy near Eastbrook

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

EASTBROOK, Maine — Among the mountains of Maine and offshore sites in the Gulf of Maine, there are many places where wind energy companies are thinking about erecting turbines to generate electricity for the region.

But one site in Hancock County is neither far inland nor out to sea, where wind resources are said to be the strongest but more difficult to harness. Bull Hill, which straddles the boundary between Township 16 and Eastbrook, is less than 20 miles away from Frenchman Bay as the crow flies.

Dwayne Jordan, a logging contractor from neighboring Waltham, said Thursday evening that he owns 10,000 acres in Eastbrook, Osborn and Waltham that are under contract to First Wind LLC for testing. First Wind, a Newton, Mass.-based firm that operates wind farms on Stetson Mountain in Washington County and in Mars Hill, has a temporary meteorological testing tower on land he owns next to Bull Hill, he said.

Jordan said the tower has been there for about a year and though he does not know what the overall test results indicate, the reports he has heard are promising.

If the firm decides to erect a wind farm on his land, Jordan said, it would not use all the land being leased for testing. First Wind most likely would lease a few hundred acres and the rest would revert back to his control.

“Right now, the lands are being tested for a wind farm,” Jordan said.

Marcia Spencer-Famous, senior planner with the state Land Use Regulation Commission, said Thursday that Blue Sky East LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of First Wind LLC, has applied to LURC to erect two temporary meteorological testing towers on Bull Hill in neighboring Township 16. The flagpolelike towers each would be 197 feet tall and 8 inches in diameter, she said. They would not be required to have lights because they would be less than 200 feet high.

Spencer-Famous said LURC received the application on Sept. 9. With such temporary testing towers, LURC staff are authorized to issue a permit without a vote from commissioners, she said.

“It usually takes about a month or two” to approve a temporary tower permit, she said. “It’s usually pretty simple and straightforward.”

Spencer-Famous said that LURC gets many such requests and not all end up being developed into wind farms.

Jordan said he does not own the land on Bull Hill in Township 16 that First Wind hopes to test. A message left Thursday evening at the home of a man believed to own the test property in Township 16 was not immediately returned.

John Lamontagne, spokesman for First Wind, confirmed Thursday evening that the company is testing sites in and around Eastbrook for a possible wind farm. He said the company routinely seeks out possible new sites for wind farms in Maine and New England.

As far as whether there might be a wind farm built on Bull Hill, Lamontagne said it is too early to tell. It takes about a year of testing to gauge an area’s wind resources, he said, and then many more months of permitting.

“It’s the beginning of a long process,” Lamontagne said.

Two Maine projects listed by First Wind on its Web site as being in early development do not include information about where in the state they might be located. One, listed simply as “Down East,” would have a 150-megawatt capacity while the other, listed as “Maine I,” would have an 80-megawatt capacity, according to the Web site.

By comparison, the 28-turbine Mars Hill wind farm has a 42-megawatt capacity and the 38-turbine facility on Stetson Mountain has a 57-megawatt capacity, according to the company.

Lamontagne said he did not know if one of the unspecified projects listed on the Web site might refer to the testing site on Bull Hill. Some of the information on the Web site is out of date, he said, and so he could not verify that First Wind is pursuing a wind farm with a capacity as high as 150 megawatts anywhere in Maine.

By the same token, he said, he could not say that any wind farm in Eastbrook would not have a 150-megawatt capacity.

“I can’t say one way or the other,” Lamontagne said.

Jordan said that he was approached by more than one wind power developer but that he decided to sign a lease with First Wind because it is established in Maine and he thinks it has good facilities at its other sites at Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain.

Jordan said Bull Hill is not as tall as other mountains where First Wind has erected turbines but it does have other advantages.

It is right next to an existing transmission line that carries electricity between Penobscot County and coastal Washington County, he said, and it is already accessible by existing logging roads. Also, it is relatively close to the ocean, which is generally considered to have more consistent and windier conditions than land.

“The ridge lines we have are not tremendously high,” Jordan said. “This is the closest wind [site to the coast] that has been tested.”

Besides Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain, First Wind has two operating winds farms in New York and one in Hawaii, according to the company’s Web site. First Wind is expanding its Stetson Mountain facility and is pursuing others in Maine in Oakfield, Rumford, and near Lincoln.

The Web site also indicates the company has two projects proposed for Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, which is within eyesight of the Washington County coast.

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