LURC to hear $136M Bowers Mountain industrial wind plan

Posted May 25, 2011, at 8:07 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine ? A state land-use agency will hold public hearings at Mattanawcook Academy next month on plans to build a $136 million industrial wind site in Carroll Plantation and Kossuth Township, officials said Wednesday.

Massachusetts-based First Wind wants to build a 25- to 27-turbine facility on 700 acres near Bowers Mountain located just south of Route 6 and about eight miles south of its 55-turbine Stetson Mountain wind power facilities in the two towns, which ride the Penobscot and Piscataquis county line.

The Land Use Regulation Commission will hold its hearing at the high school on June 27 and 28. Residents are invited to attend.

The maximum energy output at any given time at 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 ? usually less than 30 percent of it.

Brad Blake, a spokesman for the Friends of Lincoln Lakes, a citizens group that led the unsuccessful fight against a First Wind project that is presently placing turbines on the Rollins Ridge area of Lincoln, referred comment on the Bowers Mountain project to Kevin Gurall, who could not be reached for comment.

Gurall is president of a nonprofit group of residents and landowners called the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, or PPDLW, which opposes the construction of the Bowers Mountain project and is the leading citizens group fighting it, Blake said.

Members of the Friends of Lincoln Lakes, which opposed the Rollins Mountain project with everything from court action to on-site protests, will likely attend the hearings in support of the partnership, Blake said.

“We are hopeful that LURC will eventually realize that the Class I watershed is worthy of preservation not only for its scenic beauty but also for its ecosystem,” Blake said Wednesday. “At some point we have to stop the relentless destruction of every ridge in this region.”

Residents and landowners in Carroll Plantation, Lakeville, Springfield and Grand Lake Stream formed the partnership group more than a year ago to oppose the placement of towers within the watershed, which contains more than two dozen lakes and ponds judged to be among the Northeast’s most fragile and beautiful.

In addition to Gurall, Tracy Allen, the preservation group’s vice president, did not immediately return email messages on Wednesday.

On its Website, ppdlw.org, the group is urging residents to petition LURC prior to the hearings in opposition of the project and to bring written comments to the hearings so that they may be read into the record.

Besides opposing the project due to its adverse impact upon the region’s aesthetic value, the group fears that the windmills would disrupt the region’s fragile ecosystem; depreciate land values; damage the tourist and recreation industries in the area, which include the state’s largest concentration of professional guides and sporting camps; and have little to no real value as electricity generators.

First Wind owns and operates three projects in Maine: the 57-megawatt Stetson I and 26-megawatt Stetson II projects, both near Danforth, and the 42-megawatt Mars Hill Wind project in Mars Hill. The company is also building the Rollins Wind project, which is in Lincoln, Burlington, Lee, Winn and Mattawamkeag.

Construction of the towers has largely finished and workers employed by First Wind are presently wiring together the windmills for an expected start by mid-July, said John Lamontagne, spokesman for First Wind.

Rollins Mountain will be the first First Wind project that will sell its electricity to two of the state’s wholesale electricity providers, Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. and Central Maine Power, Lamontagne said. The project is largely funded by $98 million in financing from KeyBank and other financial institutions.

“It has gone well,” Lamontagne said, “despite a very tough winter. Our goal was to have it done by September.”

A 30-megawatt First Wind project in Eastbrook will likely be ready for construction early next year, Lamontagne said.

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