ELLSWORTH, Maine — First Wind, the Boston-based commercial wind power company, could be looking to significantly boost its presence in Hancock County.
First Wind already has erected 19 turbines in Township 16 in eastern Hancock County and has applied to the state for approval to erect 18 more in Township 16 and in neighboring Township 22.
According to easements filed at the Hancock County Registry of Deeds, First Wind subsidiary Weaver Wind has identified 57 more possible turbine sites in Osborn and Township 22.
David Fowler, senior land manager for First Wind, said Tuesday that the 57 sites identified in the Weaver Wind easement are “just prospects.” He said First Wind has not yet assessed any of the possible Weaver Wind sites to see if they may be suitable for wind power development and so has not submitted any development proposals for them to the state.
“We have no wind data for that [possible project],” he said. “We have a lot of prospects in the state.”
Roger Waterman, chairman of Osborn’s Board of Selectmen, had not heard about Weaver Wind when a reporter asked him about it last week. On Wednesday, Waterman said he and two fellow selectmen are planning to get information from the county’s registry of deeds so they can discuss the potential effect the development could have on their town, if it moves forward.
“It would have an impact and a half,” Waterman said.
Osborn only has 67 residents, he said, not including the 75 or so owners of seasonal camps on Spectacle Pond, which is near where some of the turbines would be located. Osborn has no planning board and so, with a development proposal of that magnitude, the town would rely upon state’s Land Use Planning Commission for deciding whether to approve the application, Waterman said.
First Wind already has offered to pay the town $4,000 a year for each turbine it hopes to erect as part of a different project, Hancock Wind, even though none of those turbine sites are actually in Osborn. First Wind has applied to the state for approval to erect 18 turbines in Township 22, which is immediately east of Osborn, and in Township 16, which lies immediately south of Township 22.
If Hancock Wind is approved by the state’s land use commission and Department of Environmental Protection, the company only would develop 17 of the sites because of capacity limits placed upon the project by ISO New England, the regional power distribution authority, according to Fowler.
At $4,000 per turbine, Osborn stands to be paid $68,000 a year, or roughly $1,000 for each resident, from the Hancock Wind project. Waterman said that even if only some of the potential sites identified in the Weaver Wind easement end up being developed, the town feasibly could end up getting double that per-turbine payment, or more.
“It would be a lot of bucks,” he said.
Waterman added, however, that some residents and property tax payers might have reservations about what other effects industrial wind power development might have on Osborn. The aesthetic and physical effects of the turbines — noise, shadow, visual appearance and effect on wildlife — also have to be considered, he said.
“You have to balance the money part of the thing [with the other effects],” he said.
Hancock Wind and Weaver Wind both have easements that they secured last November with Colorado-based land holding firms Ursa Major LLC and BBC Land LLC. BBC Land, which is listed in the easements as sharing a Milford office with Ursa Major, is a land-holding firm controlled by billionaire media mogul John Malone.
Hancock Wind’s easement has 22 potential wind turbine sites identified in Township 22, even though the firm has applied to the state to develop only 14 of them on Spectacle Pond Ridge and Schoppe Ridge. The four other turbine sites the First Wind subsidiary is seeking state approval to develop are in Township 16, near where First Wind erected 19 turbines last year for its Bull Hill Wind project.
Of the 57 identified potential Weaver Wind turbines sites, approximately three dozen of them are in Osborn mostly north of Spectacle Pond, on Weaver and Een ridges and just south of Route 9, according to deeds documents. Five of the identified potential sites are due east of Spectacle Pond, less than a mile from the pond’s shoreline, the documents indicate.
The other 20 or so Weaver Wind sites are in Township 22 near Smith Ridge, between Rocky Pond and Route 9.
Fowler said that if First Wind decides at some point to erect meteorological towers in the area and then decides to apply for state approval to erect turbines, it likely will not seek approval for all 57 identified potential sites.
“Almost all of our [completed] projects are smaller” than the initial potential project sites identified by the company, he said.
First Wind has indicated it plans to use larger turbines for its Hancock Wind project than the ones it installed last year on Bull Hill. The 19 turbines on and near Bull Hill each are 476 feet tall at the highest tip of their rotating blades and have a capacity of roughly 1.8 megawatts, giving the project as a whole a 34-megawatt capacity.
The turbines First Wind hopes to install for Hancock Wind each would be 492 feet tall and have 3 megawatts of capacity for a total project capacity of 51 megawatts.
In addition to the nearly 80 potential wind turbine sites identified in the easements held by Hancock Wind and Weaver Wind, the easements also each identify the same 25 camp lots that could be relocated or affected by sound and shadow easements, according to documents filed in the deeds registry. Nine of the camps are in Osborn, of which six are on Spectacle Pond. The other 16 are in Township 22 spread out among Upper Lead Mountain Pond, Rock Pond and other locations.
According to its website, First Wind already has more than 140 turbines with a total capacity of 219 megawatts operating at four different sites in Maine, including Bull Hill. First Wind’s other industrial wind facilities in Maine include sites on Stetson Mountain in northern Washington County, Rollins Mountain near Lincoln, and Mars Hill in Aroostook County.
First Wind also has developed industrial wind power projects in the states of Hawaii, New York, Utah, Vermont and Washington.