State regulators have approved a long-term power contract for a wind energy development planned for Hancock County.
The Maine Public Utilities Commission on Friday unanimously supported a contract under which Emera Maine will pay Weaver Wind LLC 3.5 cents/kWh with increases of 2.5 percent annually, commission officials said in a release.
Weaver Wind is a 72.6 megawatt wind-to-energy project being developed by Longroad Energy in the Hancock County towns of Eastbrook and Osborn. The project — which had stalled under prior concerns about its impacts on birds and bats, and after a previous developer went bankrupt — was granted development permits in May by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The wind turbines are expected to be operational by “no later than December 2020,” according to the PUC. Each of the 22 turbines is expected to be nearly 600 feet tall from ground to the highest tip of each blade, with 14 in Osborn and eight in Eastbrook, Longroad officials have said.
In 2015, the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife publicly opposed the Weaver Wind project, which then was proposed by the now-defunct SunEdison renewable energy firm. Officials with DIF&W said at the time that the impact on birds of the existing Bull Hill Wind farm nearby in Township 16 already was significant and that erecting more turbines a few miles away “will represent significant adverse cumulative impact to migrating birds.”
To offset this concern, Longroad agreed as part of its application to conserve 5,791 acres as bird habitat in Hancock north of the Downeast Sunrise Trail and in Whiting near Holmes Bay, and to curtail operation of the turbines at certain times. The developer will work with naturalists to create a management plan for the conserved land to help protect birds and bats, according to the permit approval.
The PUC noted that its power purchase contract approval for Weaver Wind is the second contract for renewable energy that it has approved this year. In February, it authorized a contract with the 100-megawatt Three Rivers Solar project — also to be developed in Hancock County, in Township 16 — with pricing terms similar to Weaver Wind’s.
The two projects will be the third and fourth large-scale renewable energy projects in Hancock County. In addition to the existing 19-turbine Bull Hill Wind development in Township 16, which is owned and operated by TerraForm Power, there is an abutting 17-turbine development called Hancock Wind that is owned and operated by Novatus Energy.