FARMINGTON – The debate over wind power continued Friday as people wrangled over the need to develop sustainable renewable energy sources, conserve energy, preserve mountaintops, and where towering wind turbines would fit on Maine mountains, if they do.
“I think most people would agree we need wind power,” David Publicover, Appalachian Mountain Club senior staff scientist, said.
Most people agree it doesn’t belong everywhere, he said, but questioned where one draws the line of acceptable places?
Publicover was one of several panelists speaking at Tilting at Windmills?, an informational forum on wind power in Western Maine sponsored by Western Maine Legislative Caucus.
The Maine Land Use Regulation Commission has before it two applications for rezoning mountain areas in northern Franklin County to build wind farms.
Representatives from the projects, Harley Lee of Maine Mountain Power for the revised Black Nubble Wind Farm in Redington and Wyman townships and Tobey Williamson representing TransCanada Energy Ltd.’s Kibby Wind Power project in Kibby and Skinner townships, gave overviews of their plans.
Two areas in the state have the higher winds needed for wind energy: the coast, which has its own vast challenges, and the mountains, Publicover said.
There are 670 miles of Class 4 ridgelines at 267 sites, he said.
Publicover said he had hoped an analysis of information collected would be ready to evaluate potential conflicts between wind power and natural resources; instead, he now expects it to be ready in October. AMC’s model, developed by Publicover, incorporates established ecological, recreational and scenic criteria for each potential location, including whether it is on conservation land, in important wildlife areas, has ridgeline ponds or lies within view of the Appalachian Trail.
The mountains would be ranked on a development scale, he said, with one end being Mount Katahdin, where no one would think of developing, and the other end, for example being Stetson Mountain, which would be of lesser value. The process would help determine where acceptable places for wind power would be.
Peter Didisheim, advocacy director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said one of the biggest challenges Maine faces is carbon emissions that come from fossil fuel.
One of the reasons wind power makes sense, he said, is because it doesn’t release carbon emissions.
NRCM of Maine opposed the Redington Wind Project but not the Black Nubble Project because of its lesser impact on the environment. Maine Mountain Power initially proposed wind turbines on both Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble but scaled back the project after LURC asked staff to draft a denial.
Bob Kimber of Friends of Boundary Mountains said he was in favor conserving energy and the natural environment of the wilderness and mountain areas in Western Maine.
People who come to the area enjoy those places, and sightseeing is very popular, he said.
Studies show that 60 percent of the U.S. population enjoys seeing natural environment, he said.
It’s not just hikers of the Appalachian Trail focused on the trail who hike, he said. They hike the mountains to see the beauty.
“Beauty always gets shortchanged in these things,” he said, adding that wind power is a land-hungry way to generate electricity.
He urged that before people rush to develop mountain country, they look at energy conservation and study the issue more.
By Donna M. Perry
25 August 2007
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