First Wind wants to pull Bowers Mountain wind project — for now

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 16, 2011, at 7:54 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Saying it needs more time to answer critics, a Massachusetts-based wind company wants to withdraw its application for a permit to build a 27-turbine wind farm northwest of Grand Lake Stream on the Penobscot and Washington county line, it said Wednesday.

The Land Use Regulation Commission will review First Wind’s withdrawal application next month, said Matt Kearns, the company’s vice president of development in the northeastern U.S.

Nobody knows whether the withdrawal will be permanent, he said.

“We have to figure that out. We are very open to discussions with stakeholders,” Kearns said Wednesday. “We are going to take a look at the project. What we heard from the commission is that the project met 99 out of 100 siting criteria and the one they had issue with was the scenic criteria, which were difficult to evaluate.”

Commissioners directed staff during a meeting last month to write an order denying First Wind’s application because of the project’s potential for “unreasonable adverse impacts on scenic resources” in the area.

The commission is expected to review the order and First Wind’s request to withdraw the permit application at a meeting scheduled for Dec. 7 at the Waterfront Event Center on Prince Street in Lincoln, according to the commission’s website at maine.gov.

Catherine Carroll, LURC’s staff director, has said the project met the commission’s other criteria for approval of wind energy projects. But Carroll pointed out that it takes only one failed criterion to reject a project.

Kearns would not comment on whether the withdrawal was being sought to forestall a commission rejection or what that would mean to the project. Carroll did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Wednesday.

The Bowers Mountain project was to include 19 turbines built in Carroll Plantation and eight in Kossuth Township. The turbines — standing up to 428 feet tall from base to blade tip — could generate up to 69 megawatts of energy if operating at maximum capacity, company officials said.

The facility would be built on commercial timberland and would use existing access roads, although additional road construction would be required.

Project critics said the site is inappropriate for industrial wind development, would ruin land values and views, threaten wildlife and harm businesses that use the woods such as woodland guides.

Proponents say it would generate vast amounts of short-term investment and many short-term jobs in a region that needs it while producing pollution-free electricity. Kearns said Wednesday that the project, if built, would reduce Carroll Plantation property taxes by as much as 80 percent.

“We want to address the issues that have been raised. We feel we ought to be given a chance to do that,” Kearns said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/11/16/news/penobscot/first-wind-wants-to-pull-bowers-mountain-wind-project-for-now/ printed on August 27, 2014