Clifton to vote on wind farm moratorium

Posted June 16, 2010, at 9:37 p.m.

CLIFTON, Maine — Residents last week approved a new land use ordinance, which includes 28 pages of rules that deal exclusively with wind turbine projects. Tonight they will vote on whether to impose a wind energy moratorium.

“There are a group of people in town who do not feel the ordinance we approved on June 8 is adequate,” Eric Johns, planning board chairman, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.

The special town meeting is at 7 p.m. today at the Clifton Municipal Building.

If approved, the moratorium would be in place for up to 180 days. The time would be used “to review the wind turbine portion of the land use code, to make additional modifications,” Johns said.

Bangor businessman Paul Fuller and his wife purchased 270 acres on Pisgah Mountain, which is located just south of Rebel Hill Road — also known as Route 180 — and last year approached the planning board about placing a meteorological tower on the hilltop to collect data about wind currents.

That tower was approved, and Fuller says the data show the winds are strong enough to make electricity. He, along with business partner Mike Smith, would like to put up four wind turbines on the mountain but have not yet submitted any official plans.

“We would like to construct four 1.6- or four 2.5-megawatt GE unit turbines,” Fuller said Wednesday. “In order to move ahead, we need to know what the town wants and what rules we need to follow.”

He praised the town’s new land use ordinance as “strict and state-of-the-art.”

“It’s the strictest noise ordinance in the state,” Fuller said. “Because we have setbacks so far from people’s homes, we can comply with all of those” new rules.

The proposed wind farm project has a $15 million price tag, which means the town would get around $165,000 annually from property taxes if the project goes forward, he said. Even though Fuller and Smith have not presented town leaders with any official plans, the business partners have offered to provide the town with a $5,000 stipend per megawatt, which would equal $32,000 to $50,000 annually, based on the turbine size.

The proposed 400-foot towers would be visible from nearby roadways, but the closest residence to where the meteorological tower now stands is around a mile away, the landowner said.

One turbine alone would produce twice the energy that town residents use in one year, or the equivalent of 125,000 gallons of heating oil, Fuller said. His property is adjacent to a power line spur owned by Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. that connects to Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island, so “the majority [of the energy] would be sent down to Ellsworth,” he said, adding others could purchase it.

“We have to get away from oil,” Fuller said. “This is part of the vision” for a greener future.

“This is a natural resource that we have to tap into to make the changes we need to for future generations,” he said.

Both Fuller and Smith plan to be at tonight’s meeting.

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