A smaller version of a wind farm proposal that generated a storm of controversy last year is slated to go to public hearings in September.
The Black Nubble Wind Farm, which calls for 18 wind turbines on the western Maine mountain, will go before the public Sept. 19 and 20 and, if more time is needed, Sept. 21 at the Sugarloaf Grand Summit Conference Center in Carrabassett Valley.
That Black Nubble project is a smaller version of the Redington wind farm, which called for 30 turbines on Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble.
Environmental groups and groups that advocate for the Appalachian Trail, which passes close to the project, have said that while the one-mountain project is smaller, it still raises significant concerns.
“Black Nubble is the most in-your-face part of the whole development,” David Field, a spokesman for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, said Tuesday.
Catherine Carroll, the director of the Land Use Regulation Commission, said she expects the nature of the testimony at the September hearings to be similar to that provided last year on the Redington project.
“The bottom line is that the issues regarding Redington have gone away, but the issues regarding Black Nubble haven’t necessarily,” said Carroll.
Carroll said she scheduled three days of hearings, but hopes that all three won’t be necessary.
Developer Maine Mountain Power has said that the Black Nubble project would retain many of the benefits of the Redington wind farm – it would provide enough power for about 21,500 Maine homes without generating greenhouse gases – but avoid many of the potential drawbacks.
Under the one-mountain proposal, the Redington Pond Range would be protected from future development for wind power, preserving rare subalpine habitat, according to Maine Mountain Power’s application.
The smaller project would also be farther from the Appalachian Trail and less noticeable, according to the proposed wind farm’s developer.
Black Nubble is just over three miles from the Appalachian Trail at the closest point, while turbines on Redington Pond Range would have been about one mile from the trail at the closest point.
In January, Land Use Regulation Commission members rejected the two-mountain project by 6-1 vote.
After the Redington project was rejected, however, Maine Mountain Power asked the commission to reopen the record to consider the Black Nubble project.
In June, commissioners agreed.
And while the smaller project has attracted support from a wide range of groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine – which had opposed the Redington project – it is also opposed by most of the groups that also opposed the original project in hearings last August.
Just because turbines on Black Nubble are farther away from the Appalachian Trail, doesn’t mean they will create less of a visual impact than turbines on Redington, said Field, who said he has maintained a stretch of the Appalachian Trail near the project for 50 years.
Because of the orientation of Black Nubble, and the fact that the trail has no tree cover for long stretches near the proposed site, Field said the lighted 400-foot turbines would have a dramatic effect on the experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail in an area where there are few visible signs of human activity.
“This is like nothing that has ever impacted the Appalachian Trail in Maine before. We are talking about motion. We are talking about a skyline that crawls,” he said.
By Alan Crowell
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