LINCOLN, Maine — If you’re traveling in the Lincoln Lakes region and you see the 40 turbines of the Rollins Mountain industrial wind site turning with the wind, be advised: They are not yet generating electricity.
But they are almost ready to.
With 37 of its 40 Rollins turbines successfully tested and commissioned, officials from First Wind of Massachusetts will be holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the project site off Route 6 near Lee on July 20 to formally launch the state’s first wind site that will generate electricity for Maine’s utility ratepayers, officials said Tuesday. Testing of the remaining three turbines is ongoing.
“Essentially, the project is about 98 percent completed, and some final punch-list items remain — things like finishing up work in the operations and maintenance building and finishing work on some of the roads,” said John Lamontagne, First Wind’s spokesman.
Financed partially with an $81 million construction loan and a $17 million letter of credit by Key Bank National Association and Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, Germany’s 10th largest financial institution, the $130 million project is expected to have a maximum capacity of 60 megawatts, though such projects typically generate no more than 30 percent of their capacity.
Each generating 1½ megawatts, the turbines are located on ridgelines in Burlington, Lincoln, Lee and Winn and are visible from Mattanawcook Lake, Stump Pond and other Lincoln and Lee sites. Site clearing and other prep work began in late September, with pouring of the turbine’s concrete bases and turbine assembly starting in October.
First Wind is a major developer of wind farms in Maine, with operations including Mars Hill Wind in Aroostook County and Stetson Wind and Stetson Wind II in Washington County. Rollins will be the first industrial wind site in Maine to sell electricity to Maine’s retail providers.
The project is among many opposed by anti-wind groups, which call such projects blights upon the landscape. They say the projects harm wildlife and threaten human health, lower land values and are investments of questionable worth. The groups have lost all of their legal fights against the project, but they haven’t stopped fighting.
Brad Blake, one of the leaders of the Friends of Lincoln Lakes group, recently emailed to news media photographs of Rollins’ wind towers with Mount Katahdin in the background as an illustration, he said, of the project’s harmful visual impact upon the landscape.
“It is one of the consistent images used in attracting tourists to our beautiful state — a $10 billion per year business. Mars Hill, Stetson I & II and now Rollins are all visible from [Mount] Katahdin. Alas, Oakfield Hills and Bowers/Kossuth may soon join them,” he said. “Ridges that are virtually in the shadow of this great place in Sherman, Island Falls, Staceyville, Benedicta, and likely others are all targeted by the nefarious wind developers who care nothing for our rich natural heritage in their pursuit of money to be reaped from taxpayer subsidies.”
First Wind is seeking permitting for other projects in the Oakfield Hills and Bowers Mountain regions as well.