A proposal to scale back the controversial Redington Wind Farm project in Western Maine could be submitted to state regulators this week.
Harley Lee, president of Endless Energy Corporation, one of the developers of the proposal, told the Land Use Regulation Commission last week that developers would propose removing all 12 turbines from the taller, more environmentally sensitive Redington Pond Range.
That would leave 18 wind turbines on Black Nubble Mountain, located farther from the Appalachian Trail and with less environmentally sensitive habitat. Lee told commissioners the new proposal calls for putting land on Redington into conservation, according to a recording of that meeting.
The new plan appears to be an effort to preserve at least part of a wind farm plan that was essentially rejected in January.
Commissioners voted 6-1 to reject a staff recommendation in favor of the wind farm in a vote that was unusual because the commission rarely goes against staff recommendations.
That vote meant the formal rejection of the project was all but certain. A staff recommendation against the plan had been expected to go before the commission as soon as next month.
Reached Tuesday, Lee said he expected the letter outlining the new proposal to be sent to the commission this week, but could not comment until it is received.
The original Redington Wind Farm proposal would have produced about 90 megawatts of electricity at peak capacity at competitive prices without polluting the atmosphere, according to developers.
Despite the potential environmental benefits, however, the strongest opposition to the plan came from environmental groups worried about the impact the project would have on a subalpine habitat home to rare or endangered species.
The visual impact of the huge forty-story turbines within a mile of he Appalachian Trail was also a concern.
Because Redington Pond Range, at just about 4,000 feet, is home to more sensitive habitat and also several miles closer to the Appalachian Trail, a new proposal that only featured turbines on Black Nubble, at about 3,700 feet in elevation, would appear to address many of the objections to the plan.
During public hearings last summer, the Natural Resources Council of Maine stated a smaller project with turbines only on Black Nubble would be both economically viable and environmentally preferable.
The council, which supports wind power, stated it could not support the Redington wind farm as proposed but championed a Black Nubble project as a compromise solution.
Catherine Carroll, commission director, said Tuesday that Lee is apparently asking that the public record be reopened, something that doesn’t happen often but does occur “from time to time.”
Carroll said that if the record is reopened, another public hearing may be scheduled.
“I think it would deserve another hearing given the level of interest and the complexity of the issues,” said Carroll. She said any decision about a hearing would be made by the commission.
By Alan Crowell
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
9 May 2007
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