FRANKFORT, Maine – - Two officials from a small, New Hampshire-based energy company told Frankfort residents Thursday night that they are interested in building a 10-megawatt, $25 million wind project atop Mount Waldo.
But most of the 100-plus people who crowded the Frankfort Elementary School cafeteria for the introductory meeting wanted to let the representatives from Eolian Renewable Energy know that they have grave concerns about the noise, shadow flicker, property value changes and other problems that could arise along with the project’s four to six wind turbines.
“I support looking into wind power,” said Frankfort resident Sadie Fournier, to a quiet rumble of applause. “But it doesn’t mean I want a great big engine above my house.”
Chief Executive Officer Jack Kenworthy of the Portsmouth-based company and Senior Development Manager Travis Bullard explained their idea and also listened as residents mostly gave them an earful.
They said that the 3-year-old company, which has five projects in development around New England but none yet up and running, has leased land on Mount Waldo since late 2010. Additionally, the company has purchased wind information that had been gathered there beginning in early 2009 that indicates the speeds and consistency of the wind would be “excellent” for commercial development.
In a letter mailed to Frankfort residents on March 1, Bullard wrote that they will continue to evaluate the project feasibility throughout this year.
Eolian Renewable Energy is focusing on building wind energy projects in areas that have existing roads and towers, that are close to infrastructure like highways and are smaller so they will “fit better” into the New England landscape, the letter stated.
Mount Waldo already has three radio towers at the summit, as well as an access road.
“We believe that a project on Mount Waldo would bring ample benefits to the town of Frankfort, with minimal new impacts,” Bullard wrote.
In the presentation, the men said that they believed that a 10-megawatt project might generate $100,000 in taxes annually for Frankfort, making it one of the largest taxpayers. They also said that the project would have “robust” setbacks of about half a mile, between the turbines and the nearest residences.
Wayne Emerton, who said he likely would be an abutting neighbor, wasn’t so sure about their figures.
“If you were a little more honest, we would be a little more ready to listen to what you’ve got to say,” he told them.
Valerie Rowland of Winterport said that her son, now stationed in Eastport with the U.S. Coast Guard, owns another piece of property that is close to the proposed project.
“That’s our backyard you want to put this in,” she said.
Carolyn Dodge of Dixmont also attended and let Frankfort residents know about some of her experiences with wind. She said that she put a 50-foot tall turbine in her backyard, and the shadow flicker made her daughter sick.
Dixmont residents did a lot of research to create their wind power ordinance, she said.
“This is a lot of technology coming at these little towns that are really not prepared,” Dodge told the residents. “There’s lots of things to consider and look out for … hard questions about sound and setback.”
David P. Corrigan, a registered Maine Master Guide out of Concord Township, said that he drove 100 miles to attend the information session. He said that he has been very busy in the last year researching wind energy development in Maine and that one thing struck him about the duo from Eolian.
“These guys are amateurs. This is the smallest wind company I’ve ever seen in the state of Maine,” the plaid-clad guide said. “And this town has some people paying attention. I think you’ll see this town voting for a moratorium in the not-too-distant future.”
In fact, a moratorium petition was being circulated at the information session, and resident Erin-Kate Sousa said that she was fairly confident organizers would obtain the 48 necessary signatures to get it on the warrant at next Friday’s annual town meeting.
If that happens, and it passes, Frankfort would impose a 180-day moratorium on wind development.
“We’re just all feeling like this is happening very fast,” she said. “The moratorium is not an ordinance. It’s just saying we need more time.”
But resident Chester Zukoski, who lives about a mile from the proposed project, said he thinks he’s not the only person in town to generally support the idea of wind development and also believes that the company’s setbacks are “fine.”
“Everybody wants cheaper energy, but nobody wants it in their backyard,” he said. “Right now, I’m for it.”
The Frankfort annual town meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, March 25 at the Frankfort Elementary School. It is likely that a moratorium will be on the warrant. Residents definitely will be voting on another wind-related article that would support the Eolian project to qualify for the Maine Community Based Renewable Energy Program.