When the Black Nubble Wind Farm goes before the public at a three-day Land Use Regulation Commission hearing next week, it will have at least one more supporter than its predecessor.
The Black Nubble Wind Farm, which calls for 18 turbines on the western Maine mountain, will go before the public Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Sugarloaf Grand Summit Conference Center in Carrabassett Valley. Land Use Regulation Commission officials say the last day of the hearing may not necessary.
The Black Nubble proposal is a smaller version of the Redington wind farm proposal, which was rejected by Land Use Regulation Commission members in an unusual 6-1 vote in January that went against the recommendation of its own staff.
But while environmental groups lined up almost uniformly against the Redington project at hearings last year, the Black Nubble project has gained at least one important supporter – the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the largest environmental advocacy groups in the state.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine testified against the Redington project – which called for wind turbines on both Redington Pond Range and Black Nubble – but advocated for a smaller, Black Nubble-only project at last year’s hearings.
Black Nubble is lower in elevation and has less subalpine habitat. It is also about three miles from the Appalachian Trail – turbines on Redington would have been about one mile from the trail at their closest point.
Last year, the project developer, Maine Mountain Power, said the Black Nubble project would not be economically viable.
Now, Maine Mountain Power said the redesigned Black Nubble project is feasible.
They have also committed to protecting Redington Pond Range from being developed for wind power.
Natural Resources Council of Maine Director of Advocacy Pete Didisheim said the Black Nubble project strikes the right balance.
“The …. really huge difference is all of the turbines have been removed from Redington,” said Didisheim.
Redington is the last unprotected, undeveloped 4,000-foot peak in Maine, he said.
On top of Redington is about 760 acres of contiguous subalpine forest, and he said the mountain itself is within a 35,000-acre bloc of largely uncut forest unfragmented by roads.
Didisheim said the project would also produce more clean power than all but five of Maine’s hydropower projects.
“It is a relatively small impact on the ground in return for a significant amount of clean power, and we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel,” said Didisheim.
Not all environmental groups agree that the Black Nubble project deserves support, however.
Advocates for the Appalachian Trail say that just because the wind turbines on Black Nubble would be further from the trail, they wouldn’t necessarily be less noticeable.
The lighted turbines would have a dramatic effect on the experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail in an area where there are few signs of human activity, according to trail advocates.
Mane Audubon, which supports other wind power projects in Maine, is opposed to one on Black Nubble, because it says that Black Nubble is simply the wrong place for a wind power project.
Black Nubble is part of one of Maine’s premier mountain regions and features habitat for rare and declining plant and animal species, according to a Maine Audubon spokeswoman.
To truck wind turbines up the mountain and anchor them to the ridge, Maine Mountain Power will essentially have to blast off parts of the mountain, forever changing its character and values, according to Maine Audubon.
By Alan Crowell
15 September 2007
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