GRAND FALLS TOWNSHIP, Maine — A 14-turbine industrial wind site called Passadumkeag Wind Park proposed for Passadumkeag Mountain would directly overlook Soponac and West lakes, state officials say.
As proposed to state officials by Passadumkeag Windpark LLC late last month, the project would mostly be in Grand Falls, which is just south-southeast of Burlington and Lowell, but would also be in Summit Township, according to a proposal released Saturday.
“It’s a big parcel,” said Jim Beyer, regional licensing and compliance manager for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “I think it is in most of Grand Falls Township.”
Workers from his department hope to hold the first of two public meeting to hear residents’ concerns about the 42-megawatt site within six weeks, Beyer said.
The second meeting, which will be attended by the DEP commissioner or deputy commissioner, was added to the review process for all wind sites as part of DEP’s efforts to ensure the inclusiveness of the reviews, said Samantha Depoy-Warren, Maine DEP’s spokeswoman.
No meeting dates have been set. Beyer hopes to hold the first meeting in Greenbush within six weeks. He asks any resident or abutting neighbor to the site seeking more information about the application to contact the DEP official monitoring the application process, Robin Clukey, at 941-4570.
Both meetings would precede public hearings wherein state officials would begin reviewing the project.
If its proponent gets approvals from the DEP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the DEP’s Bureau of Land and Water Quality and the other agencies or departments likely to examine it, it will be the first northern Penobscot County project not owned by First Wind of Massachusetts.
First Wind owns a 42-MW site in Mars Hill, the 83-MW Stetson I and II sites near Danforth, and the 60-MW Rollins Wind site in Burlington, Lee, Lincoln and Winn in Penobscot, Piscatiquis, and Washington counties. Those sites are operational.
First Wind is also proposing or developing sites in Bull Hill, 19 turbines due to be located just east of Eastbrook in Hancock County and a 150-MW industrial wind site on Oakfield Hills that was permitted in January.
First Wind hopes to begin construction of the 150-MW Oakfield site this spring. The company has at least temporarily pulled its application to build a 27-turbine wind farm northwest of Grand Lake Stream on the Penobscot and Washington county line. That withdrawal occurred in November.
Wind projects have drawn criticism from some residents who say that the sites emit harmful sounds and vibrations, mar the landscape, depreciate land values and would not even be attempted if not for large federal and state tax breaks and alternative-energy inducements.
A Mars Hill woman has filed lawsuit claiming that the First Wind site has badly damaged her health, protesters were arrested while picketing the Rollins Mountain site and several group legal appeals have been rejected, including at least one that reached the Maine state supreme court.
Some residents have also questioned the involvement of former state government leaders within the wind-to-energy industry.
Beyers expects more complaints about the project’s visual impacts than its noise and vibrations.
“In the little I know about the project, noise is not much of an issue because very few people live out there,” Beyers said. “Visual impact will be what the debate will be around. We have already heard from people who are concerned about the visual impact of the project.”
A study of the health-problem claims released in January found insufficient evidence of a direct link to windmills, but cautioned that not all potential side effects of living near turbines are fully understood.
Bowdoinham resident Chris Jackson, who owns a small parcel on West Lake in Township 3 North District, about six miles from the proposed site, said he opposes the project.
“This would definitely have a scenic impact,” Jackson said Saturday. “The property on the east side of West Lake overlooks Passadumkeag Mountain across the lake.”
Jackson, 39, also worries that the project would have an adverse impact on the nearby Robbins Lumber Conservation Easement, which in 2000 set more than 20,000 acres surrounding Nicatous Lake in eastern Maine in perpetual protection against development or disturbance.
According to Passadumkeag Wind’s proposal, the turbines would be 459 feet from base to extended blade tip. Each would generate 3.0 MW.
Electricity would be collected in a 34.5-kilovolt line to run about 17 miles from Passadumkeag Ridge along Greenfield Road through Summit Township, Greenfield Township and Greenbush.
“Nearly all of this line is in an existing electrical distribution line right-of-way immediately adjacent to an existing road,” the initial proposal to the DEP states.
The project would include a substation in Greenbush and a connection to an existing 115-kV transmission line on Greenbush Road.
Correction: An early version of this story requires correction. It should have said that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection project review will include a meeting attended by residents and the department’s commissioner or deputy commissioner, not a commission member, as part of the DEP’s efforts to ensure that the process of wind power reviews is inclusive. The project will be reviewed, in part, by the DEP’s Bureau of Land and Water Quality, not the Department of Inland Resources.