A Massachusetts energy company has received the green light to begin construction of a 38-turbine wind farm in northern Washington County.
Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission voted 5-0 on Wednesday to approve UPC Wind’s final design plan for what will be New England’s largest wind-energy facility. The vote clears the way for UPC to begin work on the Stetson Mountain site, located between the communities of Danforth and Springfield.
“We are mobilizing equipment to the site today and tomorrow, so construction activity will begin promptly,” Matt Kearns, project manager with UPC, said Thursday afternoon.
The 38 turbines each will stand roughly 390 feet from base to blade tip and will be spaced out along the ridgeline, which runs roughly parallel to Route 169 for about seven miles. The turbines will be located primarily along existing logging roads.
Kearns said crews likely will spend the winter clearing the turbine locations of trees and shrubs and grading the pad sites. Construction of the turbines is expected to begin this spring after mud season. UPC hopes the wind farm will be operational by summer, Kearns said.
The company is still seeking approval of a power line route from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Once operational, the Stetson wind farm is expected to generate 57 megawatts of pollution-free electricity annually. Company officials said that is the equivalent of the yearly electricity use of 27,500 Maine households. Power from the wind farm will flow into the New England power grid.
Although there were some opponents, the Stetson project was much less controversial than a smaller wind farm proposed for Maine’s western mountains. LURC is expected to consider a scaled-down version of that project, located on Black Nubble Mountain, as well as a wind farm proposal for Kibbe Mountain, on Jan. 14.
A group of Stetson-area residents, living primarily in the town of Prentiss, had urged LURC to reject UPC’s application to rezone 4,800 acres on the ridgeline for the wind farm. The opponents expressed concern about noise from the turbines as well as the wind farm’s impact on wildlife and scenic views.
At nearly 400 feet tall, the turbines will be visible from parts of nearby Baskahegan Lake – a popular fishing spot – as well as portions of Route 169 and U.S. Route 1.
But the prospect of additional construction jobs and tax revenues was enough to win the project endorsements from the Washington County commissioners as well as the Sunrise County Economic Council. A number of statewide environmental groups also supported the project.
“It’s great that they received this approval so they can make use of the [winter] construction season,” said Sean Mahoney, vice president and director of the Conservation Law Foundation’s Maine office. “The sooner the windmills are up and operating, the better for consumers and the environment alike.”
UPC Wind also operates a 28-turbine wind farm in the Aroostook County town of Mars Hill.
By Kevin Miller
4 January 2008