Attorney Erik Stumpfel of Rudman Winchell was recently engaged by the county commissioners of Aroostook County, to advise the commissioners on financial discussions with the developer of a major wind energy project in northern Aroostook County. If constructed as planned, the project would become the largest wind energy project in New England.
EDP Renewables North America, LLC, formerly known as Horizon Wind Energy, is proposing to construct a 125 turbine, 250 megawatt wind energy project on and near Number 9 Mountain, located in the unorganized townships west of Bridgewater, Maine. EDP Renewables currently has more than 58,000 acres of land under lease in connection with the project. EDP is also in the process of acquiring rights of way for a fifty mile transmission line to connect the project to the New England grid.
EDP Renewables North America, LLC is a subsidiary of a large Spanish renewable energy company, EDP Renovaveis.
The Number 9 Mountain project was originally proposed by Horizon Wind in 2007, but did not go forward at that time. However, in October 2013, the State of Connecticut’s energy department gave final approval to a 15 year power purchase agreement with EDP, for purchase of electric power generated by the Maine project and a smaller (20 MW) solar energy project to be built in Connecticut. Under the purchase agreement, Connecticut’s electric utility companies will be required to purchase the power output from the two projects at a blended average price of less than eight cents per kilowatt hour, as part of Connecticut’s state-mandated renewable energy program. The purchase agreement is expected to provide EDP Renewables with more than $1 billion in revenues from power sales over the 15 year contract term.
Under Maine’s Wind Energy Act, developers of wind energy projects in Maine are required to demonstrate a local community benefit of at least $4,000 per wind turbine per year, for 20 years, as a condition of receiving state permits. This requirement is typically satisfied by entering into a host community benefit agreement with the municipality where the project is located. For wind energy projects located in Maine’s unorganized territories, the county is usually considered to be the host community. The $4,000 per turbine figure is a statutory minimum and is subject to negotiation. For several recent wind energy projects in Maine, the agreed annual benefit amount has exceeded $5,000 per MW, not per turbine.
Developers of wind energy projects in Maine also typically seek to negotiate a partial refund of new property taxes to be paid by the project, under Maine’s tax increment financing (“TIF”) statute. For most wind energy projects in Maine, the TIF and community benefit discussions are conducted as a combined negotiation.
When approved, designation of a TIF district allows the host community to use its share of new tax dollars from the project to fund local economic development efforts within the TIF district and the host community, through a TIF district development program. In this way, new wind energy projects can become a major funding source for economic development efforts in Maine’s distressed rural counties and communities.
Attorney Stumpfel has represented the county commissioners in Washington, Franklin, Hancock and Penobscot counties, as well as the town of Oakfield and four Lincoln area municipalities, in financial discussions with the developers of eight previous wind energy projects.
With more than 30 attorneys specializing in various fields of practice,Rudman Winchell provides comprehensive counsel to the people, businesses and communities of Maine.
For more information please contact:
Jeff Solari/Manager of Business Development 207.992.2628