AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s largest wind power developer is asking state regulators to reclassify nearly 700 acres of timberland in northern Washington County where the company hopes to build part of a 25-turbine wind farm.
Continuing its focus on the region east of Lincoln, First Wind LLC plans to file an application with state regulators this fall for a wind power facility in the area of Bowers Mountain in Carroll Plantation and Kossuth Township.
The proposed 25-turbine facility would be located just south of Route 6 and about eight miles south of First Wind’s 55-turbine Stetson Mountain wind power facilities.
But first, the Massachusetts-based company wants all of the land in question included in the state’s “expedited permitting area” for wind power projects.
Such a designation means First Wind will have to submit only a single application under the state’s streamlined — but controversial — permitting process that policymakers put in place in order to encourage wind power development.
On Wednesday, the Land Use Regulation Commission will consider whether to begin a rule-making process to add 695 acres in Kossuth Township to the expedited permitting area. The adjacent acreage in Carroll Plantation already is designated an appropriate location for expedited processing of wind power permits.
The meeting is slated for 9:30 a.m. at the Spectacular Event Center in Bangor.
In documents filed with LURC, the First Wind subsidiary — Champlain Wind — proposing to develop the site states that seven of the turbines likely would be located in Kossuth Township in Washington County while 18 will be just across the Penobscot County border in Carroll Plantation.
The maximum energy output at any given time of the facility would be 57 megawatts, although actual electricity production depends on wind speed and other factors, and critics contend that large wind farms rarely produce their maximum rated output.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne noted Friday that the final project design is dependent on the company’s petition to expand the expedited permitting zone. But Lamontagne wrote in an e-mail that the reception to the project thus far has been “very friendly” in part because people in the area are familiar with the Stetson facility.
“We believe that Carroll [Plantation] residents understand that a project like this can generate tax revenues for the community and a good amount of economic activity in the area, while generating clean, renewable energy for Maine and New England,” Lamontagne wrote.
As with other large-scale wind power projects, however, First Wind’s Bowers Mountain proposal and the petition to LURC are generating some opposition.
A LURC memo accompanying the petition stated that staff has received comments raising concerns about the project’s effects on scenic views, wildlife, water quality and erosion. Comments also expressed concerns about the potential conflict of erecting industrial wind turbines near residences.
Among those who have voiced similar thoughts to LURC are Steven and Diane Neil, a Camden couple who purchased a lot in nearby Lakeville about three years ago where they plan to build a house.
In addition to effects on their view, the couple is concerned about wildlife and the “big picture” question of whether industrial wind power projects such as this are worth the cost considering the amount of energy they produce.
In a letter to LURC, the Neils also questioned whether such development is appropriate near land zoned for conservation.
“I’m not anti-green energy,” Steven Neil said Friday in an interview. “I just think it has to be thought through very carefully because this can change our state.”
LURC staff is recommending that commissioners hold hearings on the Bowers project, but after they complete their work on a similar pending request from another wind power developer in western Maine.
That developer, TransCanada, is seeking to add more turbines in an area near its Kibby Mountain wind power facility in western Maine.
In addition to the Stetson project, First Wind built Maine’s first large wind farm in Mars Hill and is in the permitting process for facilities outside of Lincoln and Oakfield.