If current wind study results pan out in Roxbury and Byron, a former Maine governor and former Natural Resources Council of Maine director are poised to enter the wind-farming business.
Last winter, ex-Gov. Angus King and Rob Gardiner, who also once headed Maine Public Broadcasting Corp., created Brunswick-based Independence Wind LLC, a Maine company formed to develop large-scale wind projects in Maine and elsewhere in New England.
Their first project is a 25-tower farm proposed only in concept, so far, for five miles of ridge in a straight line along Partridge and Flathead mountains in Roxbury, and Record Hill in Byron and Roxbury at an elevation of between 2,000 and 2,500 feet.
“If we use 50 megawatts as the potential once they’re installed – that’s midrange – at a potential 35 percent capacity factor, we would produce enough electricity to power all of the homes in Oxford County for a year,” Gardiner said by phone on Wednesday afternoon in Brunswick.
He and King are currently negotiating with landowner Bay Root LLC’s agent, Wagner Forest Management of Lyme, N.H..
“We don’t control the land, Wagner does,” Gardiner said. That’s why they have no control over ATV or snowmobile access in the area if towers are erected.
“We’re working on an agreement to develop a partnership between Independence Wind and Wagner. It would be unique. Everybody else is doing a straight lease. If this (project) goes forward, it would be long-term ownership. We’d be around for a long period of time.”
Gardiner estimated the Roxbury and Byron wind farm cost at between $50 million and $100 million, with $1.5 million to $3 million to be spent on permitting alone. But they are several months away from seeking permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
“Right now, it’s a concept. It’s not really a plan. Sixty (million) to $80 million is more likely the cost of it, but a lot depends on the size of the turbines and number of towers,” Gardiner said.
Additionally, Roxbury and Byron would each get $250,000 in taxes, but few local jobs will be created because the wind-farm operation would mostly involve low-level maintenance, he said.
Early last month, Independence Wind erected two 297-foot-tall meteorological towers, one atop a ridge on Flathead Mountain, the other on a ridge on Record Hill. They intend to collect wind data for six months and compare it to other wind data for the area.
Each of the 25 towers with turbines is roughly 345 feet tall. Turbine blades are 150 feet long.
“They will not be visible from very many places because of terrain. People will be able to see them from several places on Route 17 and on the west sides of Roxbury Pond and Garland Pond. From the south or north, they will not be visible due to other hills blocking the view. Whereas the Mars Hill and Stetson wind farms are very visible from miles around, this one is tucked in,” Gardiner said.
That’s why he and King met with Roxbury and Byron officials and Roxbury Pond camp owners last month to talk about the project and will meet this month with Garland Pond camp owners to provide the same information.
“There will be some (turbine) noise, but only for houses within about half-a-mile. There’s no house within three-quarters of a mile and only one or two houses within less than a mile. I don’t think anybody from a house will hear them. Actually, they’re very, very quiet machines. What you hear is the pressure differentials as the blade goes past the tower. It can be cranking and you can stand at the base and not hear them,” Gardiner said.
Reaction was mixed from Roxbury Pond camp owners.
“Some people were clearly unhappy with the view, others were quite accepting. We met with selectmen of both towns and they were concerned about the effect this will have on their school funding formula,” Gardiner said.
That’s why more meetings are planned for next month or later.
“It is time for this to happen in Maine. We hope we can bring the skills to make it happen,” he added.
By Terry Karkos
6 September 2007
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