A company that was denied a permit to build a 30-turbine wind energy farm on mountains near Sugarloaf/USA has applied for approval of a scaled-down version of its proposal.
Last year, Yarmouth-based Maine Mountain Power proposed constructing a 30-turbine facility on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble mountains.
In January, the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, going against the recommendation of its staff, rejected the request to make a zoning change and approve a preliminary permit for the project.
On Wednesday, the company filed a new request and is asking LURC to reopen the public hearings on the project after eliminating the Redington Pond Range from its original proposal.
It is now asking for only 18 turbines on Black Nubble Mountain, which is further to the west and at a lower elevation than Redington Pond Range.
“The project would essentially remain the same, except that the Redington turbines and all project elements associated with Redington would be subtracted from the application, including Redington access and summit roads, power lines, and a collection system,” a statement by Maine Mountain Power said Wednesday.
Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for the project, said the new proposal puts all turbines at least three miles from the Appalachian Trail.
Trail advocates opposed the previous proposal saying it would impair the wilderness experience for hikers on the AT.
Also in opposition to the original proposal was Maine Audubon, which objected to the project’s impact on habitat for endangered species of birds, especially Bicknell’s thrush.
Bailey said the downsized project was an attempt at compromise, and it is hoped Maine’s environmental community will embrace it.
“We believe this reduced project will still provide many important environmental, economic and energy security benefits to Maine,” he said “At the same time, our proposal will restrict development on Redington and mitigate many of the concerns raised by the commissioners and opponents to the original project.”
The Natural Resources Council of Maine opposed putting turbines on Redington Pond Range but urged Maine Mountain Power to resubmit a proposal that only used Black Nubble. NRCM supports the Black Nubble plan, said NRCM Advocacy Director Pete Didisheim
“We think it strikes the right balance,” Didisheim said. “It provides protection for a 4,000-foot peak while moving forward with a significant renewable energy project for Maine.”
The threat of global climate change from the continued use of non-renewable sources of energy is an important factor in the NRCM’s support, Didisheim said.
“Most of the concerns raised about the project would be significantly reduced by limiting the turbines to Black Nubble,” Didisheim said. “There would be less road building, less habitat fragmentation, reduced risks to threatened species, and reduced visual impacts – yet Maine would still have the benefits of a significant new source of clean renewable power.”
By Scott Thistle
10 May 2007
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