TOWNSHIP 8 RANGE 3, Maine — For Rodney Cofske and Nelson Hughes, building the Stetson II industrial wind site was like fighting the Battle of the Bulge.
Like soldiers in the epic World War II battle, the Reed & Reed Inc. construction foremen faced such brutal cold that they frequently wore all the clothing they could.
This created a problem: When they moved fast, they would sweat. When they stopped, the sweat made them colder still.
“You had to pace yourself when you climbed the towers so that when you got to the top, you weren’t awash with sweat,” Hughes said Tuesday.
“Working in the towers is like working in a chimney,” Cofske said. “The cold air would swirl all around you. Once you got up in the tower, there was no escape from it.”
The project’s developer, First Wind of Massachusetts, celebrated the efforts of Cofske, Hughes and about 300 other workers with a ribbon-cutting at the eastern Maine site Tuesday that included several local officials, contractors and designers of the mammoth project, and a busload of students from East Grand School in Danforth.
First Wind Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Gaynor praised the construction crews who battled the cold, the high winds, and the heavy snow and rain while erecting the 17 262-foot-tall industrial wind turbines in about four months, beginning last November, on schedule and on budget.
More important, they had no accidents, he said.
First Wind’s third completed Maine project and the largest wind farm in New England, the Stetson II site, combined with the first phase of the project, can produce as much as 82 megawatts of power, though wind projects typically generate from 20 percent to 40 percent of their capacity.
Operating at about 35 percent capacity, Stetson II will create enough electricity that it could power about 9,000 Maine homes annually, although it won’t have any direct Maine customers. A coal-fired electrical plant would burn 37,000 tons of coal to do the same, said Ryan Chaytors, a First Wind senior development associate.
The $60 million, 38-turbine first phase, which is located outside Danforth in Washington County, was finished in January 2009.
About 200 Reed & Reed workers constructed Phase II with another 100 local subcontractors, said Peter Garrett, project superintendent for Reed & Reed. Workers from Caribou to Bangor worked the job, he said.
The Stetson II project bought goods and services from 89 Maine companies. Stetson I and II represent $76 million in direct infusion into the Maine economy for the goods and services it required, said Jack Parker, Reed & Reed’s president.
Only one subcontractor came from out of state, he said.
Phase II began producing electricity on March 12. According to documents associated with its looming initial public offering, First Wind has a 15-year purchase agreement with Harvard University for half of Stetson II’s output.
The rest is sold to Constellation Energy of Maryland, an energy product and services supplier to wholesale and retail electric customers, First Wind officials said.
The 44-turbine, 132-megawatt Kibby Wind Power project will be New England’s largest site when project developer TransCanada finishes it this fall, TransCanada officials say. It is located in the Boundary Mountains of western Maine.
With headquarters in Boston and several satellite offices planned or located in Maine, First Wind operates the 42-megawatt Mars Hill project and has several more projects in development or permitted.
The company hopes to begin building this year its 40-turbine, 60-megawatt industrial wind site proposed for the Rollins Mountain ridgelines in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn.
The project is under appeal.
First Wind also hopes to start building its 34-turbine, $120 million Oakfield project, which the Maine Department of Environmental Protection permitted in January.
The 51-megawatt project is also under appeal.
Wind power represents a $700 million investment in Maine that creates no byproducts or waste, burns no foreign oil and lowers the cost of electricity, Parker said.
“Can you think of a single industry that has been investing that much in Maine in the last few years? I can’t,” he said.