FREEDOM – After considering a proposal to build a wind turbine farm on Beaver Ridge for three hours on Wednesday evening the planning board called it a night and will pick up where it left off at its next regularly scheduled meeting.
“We still have a lot more to do,” said Nancy Bailey-Farrar, the board’s chairwoman.
Portland-based Competitive Energy Services LLC has a long-term lease with the owners of the Beaver Ridge site, Ronald and Susan Price, who own Craneland Farm, a longtime dairy farm. The three 260-foot towers, which would be 390 feet tall with the addition of 130-foot blades, would produce up to 10 million kilowatt hours each year; enough to power 2,000 homes.
The project will cost an estimated $10 million.
The controversial project has spawned heated exchanges at previous public hearings. Nearby property owners fear the towers harm property values and cause physical risks, such as falling ice.
In May, more than 200 residents signed a petition supporting the windmill. A non-binding town vote in June, residents voted 56-25 in favor of the turbines.
The planning board, which is conducting its first review of the commercial project, worked deliberately on Wednesday. While considering individual standards in the ordinance, the board found the application either met or was inapplicable to the ordinance standards.
If the board finds that the application fails to meet any one area of the standards in the ordinance, the entire application must be denied.
The only portion of the application that did not receive unanimous approval was a standard that limits sound produced by the wind turbines.
While the board’s only scientific evidence, a report produced by Massachusetts Institute Technology professor Anthony Rogers, determined the turbines would fall below the 55 maximum decibel limit, Rogers never visited the site.
His report did not take into account existing ambient noise levels and could not be relied upon, said Prentiss Grassi. Grassi was the only member of the board to vote against the application on grounds that it failed to meet the standards spelled out in the ordinance.
The board is expected to continue the process at its next meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 at the town office. Bailey-Farrar was not confident the board would be able to reach a final decision on the application that night.
“We have to take time to do this right,” she said.
Competitive Energy Services LLC is a licensed energy provider that helps Maine companies, institutions and organizations buy electricity, natural gas, propane and fuel oil. It currently buys more than $200 million a year of commodities for more than 15,000 customers in the United States and Canada. The Freedom project is its first wind energy venture.
Its subsidiary, Maine Renewable Energy, provides electricity to homes and small businesses in Maine, supplying more than 2,000 customers with power generated from Maine hydroelectric facilities.
By Craig Crosby
Staff Writer Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
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