Thieves made off with $30,000 in copper wire over the weekend after gutting out a wind turbine tower that was being stored at the base of Mars Hill Mountain, Trooper Chuck Michaud with the Maine State Police said Tuesday.
Representatives from UPC Wind Management LLC reported the theft of the wire from one of their work sites in Mars Hill, Michaud said.
The copper wire was being stored inside a section of tower and was among the many materials being gathered for the upcoming installation of a $54 million, 28-turbine wind farm on Mars Hill Mountain.
Michaud said that the theft occurred sometime over the weekend when one or more suspects entered a work site along the West Ridge Road near the base of the mountain. Security had been in place at the work sites during the week, but not the weekend, Michaud said.
The trooper said it appears that 14 cables – each about 160 feet long and about 3 inches in diameter – were removed from a tower section that was lying near the road and were then dragged to a waiting vehicle. The trooper said the wire theoretically could have fit into the back of a big pickup truck if it had been cut up, though he was unsure whether the truck could bear the weight of it.
“The wires are long but pliable,” he explained. “If you had more than one person, you could cut them up with a torch or bolt cutters and transfer them out.”
Troopers have processed the crime scene for physical evidence. Michaud said police have several leads but no suspects at this point.
“We have had an increase in copper thefts in the County in the last year,” Michaud said.
In fact, copper theft has become “pretty rampant throughout the state” because of increasing copper prices, Michaud said.
He has been in contact with other law enforcement agencies comparing evidence and coordinating efforts to determine whether any recent crimes are related.
While the investigation is under way, Michaud said that wind farm officials are working to get on-site security all day every day to avoid future thefts.
Police are asking for the public’s assistance with any information that may be relevant to the case. Contact the State Police barracks at 1-800-924-2261 or leave a tip at the Maine State Police Web site: www.state.me.us/dps/msp.
By Rachel Rice
Bangor Daily News
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