First Wind partners with environmental coalition to form $700,000 land conservation fund

Posted Feb. 18, 2014, at 6:37 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Industrial wind developer First Wind announced Tuesday that it has partnered with a coalition of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to preserving the Appalachian Trail to create a $700,000 land conservation fund.

The conservation fund will protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail viewshed lands in Maine.

First Wind operates five wind farms in Maine. It has also proposed the Bingham Wind project, a 62-turbine wind farm located in Bingham, Kingsbury Plantation, Mayfield Township, Parkman and Abbott. The Bingham Wind project would be near the Appalachian Trail, a fact that concerned the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Maine Appalachian Trail Club and Appalachian Trail Conservancy, according to a news release. The Appalachian Trail covers more than 2,180 miles from Maine to Georgia.

John Lamontagne, a spokesman for First Wind, called the new conservation fund “a significant and positive development” for the company’s proposed Bingham Wind project.

“This agreement reflects the importance that there be clean sources of renewable energy in Maine balanced with protecting important viewsheds,” he wrote in an email to the Bangor Daily News.

The agreement with First Wind sets aside $700,000 to help mitigate the visual effects that existing and future wind development could have on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The coalition of Appalachian Trail groups identified the Orbeton Stream Conservation Easement Project as the intended recipient of the first $150,000 from the conservation fund to protect 5,800 acres along the trail in western Maine.

In the news release, leadership from the various Appalachian Trail-focused nonprofits praised the deal struck with First Wind and voiced their support for the Bingham Wind project.

“Our organizations recognize that all energy generation sources have environmental impacts. The Bingham Wind project is no exception and it will have an expected visual presence on the [Appalachian Trail],” Ken Kimball, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s director of research, said in a statement. “The [Appalachian Trail] coalition organizations appreciate First Wind’s willingness to voluntarily work with us to mitigate this project’s impacts and to protect lands with a connection to the [Appalachian Trail] viewshed.”

In addition to the dedicated conservation fund, First Wind has agreed not to propose any additional turbines to the Bingham Wind project that would be closer to the Appalachian Trail and to install radar-activated lights on the farm’s wind turbines once the Federal Aviation Administration approves the technology, according to a news release. Radar-activated lights allow them to be turned off until an aircraft is in its vicinity.

“The Appalachian Trail Conservancy believes that we have a workable agreement with First Wind to help mitigate the potential day and nighttime visual impacts to the Appalachian Trail,” Ron Tipton, executive director and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, said in a statement.

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