Clifton planners approve five-turbine wind farm

Posted Oct. 12, 2011, at 11:21 p.m.

CLIFTON, Maine — Town planners Wednesday night approved a $25 million five-turbine wind farm for Pisgah Mountain — that will be visible from Bangor once complete — and afterward the developer said the plan is to get shovels in the ground this year.

“We’ll start as soon as we can, as soon as possible,” Bangor resident and developer Paul Fuller said. “There are still things that we have to do,” including finishing the financing process and signing construction and other contracts.

Fuller gave his oldest son, Jonathan, a celebratory hug just after the board made its decision and the meeting ended. He and his wife, Sandy, purchased 270 acres on Pisgah Mountain a couple of years ago and have been working on the project ever since.

Fuller said the plan is to put down cement footings, improve the road leading to the project site and possibly install electricity this year, “with the towers to go up next year.”

He and other Pisgah Mountain LLC partners plan to put up five Vestas V90-1.8 MW wind turbines and a substation that reportedly will 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 will sit at the top of Pisgah Mountain, just south of Rebel Hill Road.

Fuller’s partners include Mike Smith from Bangor and local resident John Williams, who were both at the meeting, among others.

Peter Beckford, a resident who lives near the proposed project, said he expected the planning board to approve the project and added that he plans to appeal their decision.

“This is not a surprise,” he said of the board’s decision. “This application is lame, it’s immatureish and there has never been one with so many problems.”

The wind farm has stirred up a lot of controversy in the last two years, with people speaking passionately for and against a project which is expected to produce a significant amount of tax revenue.

The planners reviewed a long list of items, including the 54 motions approved when the wind farm project got provisional approval in June, and individually approved each motion.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s finished business,” Chairman Eric Johns said.

Each issue brought up by opponents over the last two years the project has been in the works — setbacks, sound levels, blade glint, wildlife impacts, decommissioning the units — was addressed by the panel, he said.

“I think this board has gone far, far beyond” what the town’s rules require, board member Bruce Jellison said.

The town enacted 28 pages of wind farm rules last year as part of the updated land use rules that double state standards for ambient sound and more than doubles setbacks between turbines and homes. The state requires setbacks of 1,500 feet between turbines and residences, and the town’s setbacks call for 4,000 feet from any residence or business.

“It is the strictest ordinance in the state of Maine” that still allows wind projects to move forward, Fuller has said.

Johns said the project is the biggest development the town has ever seen.

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