50 turn out for wind turbine discussion

Posted Feb. 24, 2010, at 11:03 p.m.

EASTBROOK, Maine — About 50 residents turned out Tuesday night at the town office to hear about the permitting review process that First Wind expects to go through to get approval to erect wind turbines here and in neighboring Township 16.

How many turbines would be erected and exactly where they will be has not been determined, but First Wind officials generally have identified Bull Hill, Little Bull Hill and Heifer Hill as the ridges where they hope to have turbine arrays.

First Wind, which has wind farms on Mars Hill in Aroostook County and on Stetson Mountain in Washington County, has conducted tests on the hills and has said the preliminary results indicate there may be sufficient wind resources there to generate electricity with a commercial wind farm. First Wind has a contract with landowner Duane Jordan to conduct wind tests on the hills but has not yet drafted a specific development proposal for the project.

The town also has some work to do. On Tuesday, selectmen named eight residents to a committee that is expected to look into resident concerns about the project and to draft a land use ordinance that would regulate wind turbines.

Charlene Bunker, Tom Donnell, Dennis Ellis, Mary Harris, Brian Lane, James Lane, Russell Small and Charles Yeo are members and alternates on Eastbrook’s planning board. They also make up the committee, which could be expanded if other residents express an interest in serving on it, according to First Selectman Charles Yeo.

According to First Wind officials, how many turbines could be erected in Eastbrook and Township 16 depends on what kind of turbines the company decides to erect. If they erect 3-megawatt turbines, there could be 20 overall at the three sites. If they choose 1.5-megawatt turbines, they could have between 35 and 45, according to Brooke Barnes, a Topsham consultant working for First Wind. In each case, the resulting wind farm would have an approximate capacity of 60 megawatts.

Many other issues have to be examined and addressed in order to get state approval for the project, according to First Wind. The firm will have to conduct studies on the likely impact the project will have on wetlands, on views, on noise levels, on birds, bats and other animals, and other things, they said.

“Sound and aesthetics, with wind power projects, are the two biggest issues,” said David Fowler, First Wind’s senior land manager for the project.

Fowler said the firm plans to conduct other information meetings for residents, though the next one has not yet been scheduled. He said it probably will be another month before First Wind officials come back to Eastbrook to talk to officials and residents about the company’s plans.

Charles Yeo said that the town will have help in making sure it has the regulations it needs to make the project acceptable to residents. The town plans to hire its own sound consultant to review the proposal, is getting advice from the Hancock County Planning Commission, and has hired a lawyer to represent the town’s interests in drafting possible agreements with the company such as a tax financing district and a community benefit fund.

Yeo said the ordinance committee is expected to hold its first meeting sometime before March 15 but that a meeting date has not yet been scheduled.

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