PORTLAND, Maine — A group opposed to wind power developments in Maine and a private citizen have filed separate appeals of the largest project in the state, putting further delays in front of First Wind’s 62-turbine project in Bingham.
Chris O’Neil, public affairs director with Friends of Maine Mountains, said in a statement to the Bangor Daily News the group submitted its appeal to Maine environmental regulators Thursday.
Cindy Bertocci, an analyst with the Board of Environmental Protection, confirmed Thursday afternoon her office received two appeals of the $398 million project, one from Friends of Maine’s Mountains and another from Alice Barnett, a longstanding critic of the project who has raised complaints about noise from the turbines.
The project from two subsidiaries of the Massachusetts-based First Wind won final approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in September.
Bertocci said the next steps in the process are official acknowledgement of the appeals followed by a 30-day period when First Wind can submit a response. It will be months before the citizen board considers the arguments from both parties.
John Lamontagne, a spokesman for First Wind, said the company is disappointed by the appeal but “not surprised that a handful of anti-renewable energy activists are appealing this project.”
“This project is going to be a $400 million investment in the Maine economy and will put hundreds of Maine residents to work,” Lamontagne said. “Not only will the project bring major economic benefits to the local community and the state of Maine, but it will also deliver clean, cost-competitive energy to the region.”
Lamontagne said the company “looks forward to moving forward with the project.”
After the project received preliminary approval, O’Neil said part of his group’s strategy to oppose wind is to slow down the projects. If new transmission lines for hydropower from Quebec come online and more capacity for natural gas is added to power plants in the region, O’Neil said at the time he expects the market demand for wind energy to decline.
First Wind already has secured a long-term power purchasing agreement for energy generated by its Bingham project through an agreement with Massachusetts. The state agreed in September 2013 to buy power from First Wind’s Oakfield and Bingham projects.
In its appeal to the Board of Environmental Protection, O’Neil said Friends of Maine’s Mountains claims the project will damage vistas along 280 miles of the Appalachian Trail and says the funds First Wind is required to have on hand for decommissioning the project are inadequate.
The company first requested approval of the Bingham project in May 2013. The proposed wind farm would generate up to 186 megawatts with turbines in three communities: 11 in Bingham, 29 in Mayfield Township and 22 in Kingsbury Plantation.
The company has signed agreements with those towns to provide annual payments for locating the projects there. Those agreements would deliver yearly payments of $176,000 to Kingsbury Plantation, $106,000 to Bingham and $20,000 each to the towns of Abbott, Parkman and Moscow.