First Wind applying to erect wind speed test poles in Aroostook County


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Posted Sept. 22, 2011, at 7:45 p.m.
First Wind's Tower 39 looms over people gathered to celebrate the opening of the Stetson II wind project, which added 17 additional turbines to their Stetson wind project near Danforth on Tuesday, April 6, 2010.
Bangor Daily News file photo by Kevin Bennett
First Wind's Tower 39 looms over people gathered to celebrate the opening of the Stetson II wind project, which added 17 additional turbines to their Stetson wind project near Danforth on Tuesday, April 6, 2010.

ASHLAND, Maine — A subsidiary of First Wind that already has three wind farms in Maine and two other applications pending is seeking to erect a series of test poles in a remote area of Maine’s Unorganized Territory.

First Wind subsidiary King Pine Wind LLC filed applications with the Land Use Regulation Commission last month for the 13 test poles, each of which would be fitted with a meteorological device that collects wind data over a period of time.

Billie J. MacLean, who is LURC’s regional representative out of Ashland, said King Pine Wind’s applications generally follow the Route 11 corridor between the Aroostook County towns of Ashland and Patten. According to LURC documents, the applications are for towers in T6 R6, T7 R6, T7 R5, T8 R5, Dudley Township and St. Croix Township.

First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said the intent of the applications is to allow for testing of wind strength in the area.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean these locations are suitable for a wind project,” said Lamontagne. “If we receive permits, we hope to test the wind speed in those locations.”

MacLean said all but one of the towers would be shorter than 200 feet — though in many cases by only a few feet. One tower would exceed 200 feet and require warning lights for passing aircraft. The towers would be made of 8-inch tubular poles supported by guy wires and anchors in the ground. The towers in general require the clearing of 3 to 4 acres of forest, though MacLean said some of them would be located in existing clear cuts if the applications are successful. The LURC permits would be valid for up to seven years.

The towers would be installed on land owned by Aroostook Timberlands, which is a subsidiary of Irving Woodlands LLC. According to MacLean, First Wind has memoranda of agreement with Irving for the new test sites. First Wind already has a permit to erect a 34-turbine wind farm in Oakfield, which is in the general area of the proposed test sites, though Lamontagne said First Wind has reapplied to build that project on a larger scale.

First Wind subsidiaries already operate wind farms in Mars Hill, at the Stetson project near Danforth and on Rollins Mountain near Lincoln. In the next couple of months, LURC is scheduled to give final consideration to First Wind applications for wind farms near Eastbrook, which is known as the Bull Hill project, and the Bowers Mountain project near Lee.

MacLean said King Pine Wind’s test pole applications have been reviewed by state agencies and have been posted on LURC’s website since last month, but that so far there have been no comments from the general public. Because of the simplicity of the applications, they do not require approval from the LURC board itself but are reviewed by staff, in this case MacLean, according to LURC Director Catherine Carroll.

“The applications are being processed right now,” said Carroll.

Lamontagne said he expects the test poles, which likely would be installed by the end of the year if permits are granted, will collect years’ worth of data before decisions are made about new wind farms.

“Aroostook County has been very supportive of wind,” said Lamontagne. “It’s a good place to do business.”

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