HOLDEN, Maine — Neighbors of the proposed five-turbine Pisgah Mountain wind farm in Clifton spoke passionately Wednesday about why the project is not a good fit for the rural town while officials hired to review it said it was one of the best projects they’ve seen.
The Clifton Planning Board hosted the public hearing to allow public comment on the estimated $25 million Pisgah Mountain LLC wind farm and substation permit application proposed by Bangor businessman Paul Fuller.
The Pisgah project is the first wind farm proposed in Clifton since a moratorium was lifted last year and wind farm rules were included in an updated land use ordinance.
Clifton has “a natural resource that we’re not tapping into now, and that is wind,” Fuller said at the beginning of the meeting. “You know fuel is going up. Wind is free. Wind is fuel, and wind is not going up.”
Fuller wants to put up five Vestas V90-1.8 MW wind turbines that would generate electricity for 3,000 to 4,000 Maine homes. Each of the five turbines will be approximately 308 feet tall at the hub and 455 feet at the top of the propeller blade and would sit at the top of Pisgah Mountain, just south of Rebel Hill Road.
The meeting was held at Holbrook Middle School in Holden to ensure there was enough room to accommodate all who wanted to attend. Nearly 70 people sat in the audience and 12 chose to speak.
Peter Beckford, the resident closest to the proposed project, and his Bangor attorney, Charles Gilbert, spoke several times throughout the 2½-hour meeting.
“They will tower over us,” Beckford said. They will be as tall as “a 45-story building.”
His home is about 4,200 feet away from where the turbines would be located.
In addition to his views, Beckford said he is worried about ambient sound and the effect on his property.
“I don’t want the future uses of my land to be controlled by this project,” he said.
At one point, Gilbert had a back-and-forth with Charlie Wallace of Resource Systems Engineering of Brunswick, the firm hired by Fuller to conduct a pre-construction sound study.
Afterward, Wallace returned to the podium to make a statement.
“Those places that have problems with sound are those places that have placed wind turbines within several hundred feet of residences,” he said, listing Mars Hill and Vinalhaven as examples. “This is 4,000 feet and greater.”
David Hessler of Hessler Associates of Haymarket, Va., a consultant hired by the town to conduct a sound study, said he is involved with around 65 projects and the one proposed in Clifton is above par in his eyes.
“This project is very unusual because there is very big setbacks,” he said by Skype teleconferencing. “The setbacks are so large that even if the noise does go up intermittently the noise levels would be so low, I wouldn’t expect a problem.”
Once the sound portion of the meeting was completed, Gilbert took the podium and spoke for half an hour about how, in his opinion, Fuller’s application has not met a number of standards set by the comprehensive plan and the land use ordinance.
He was followed by half a dozen residents from Clifton, Eddington and Otis.
The meeting will be continued on Wednesday, April 13, at the Clifton Town Hall to finish reviewing the project, Clifton planning board chairman Eric Johns said to end the meeting.