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Task force issues wind power report

Redington left out; developer unhappy

A report issued by a wind power task force created by Gov. John Baldacci in 2007 issued its final report on Thursday, including a recommendation that a large swath of the state be quickly approved for wind power development.

One of the maps accompanying the report shows areas, many in central and western parts of the state, that should be considered for “expedited” wind power development.

But at least one person, Harley Lee, the developer of a proposed wind power project for mountains in unorganized Redington Township near Sugarloaf Mountain in Franklin County, said the task force was remiss in excluding that township from the expedited development areas.

“I think it’s a pretty big oversight,” said Lee, president of Maine Mountain Power, Thursday.

Baldacci created the task force by executive order last May and charged the group with reviewing regulations that affect the development of wind power projects and recommend any changes that would assure that Maine has a, “balanced, efficient and appropriate regulatory framework for evaluating proposed projects.”

Lee said Redington Township should have been included in the areas the task force recommended for expedited development despite a Land Use Regulation Commission vote in January that rejected a scaled down version of his project that would have created an 18-turbine, 54-megawatt proposal on Black Nubble Mountain. The 4-2 vote was contrary to the LURC staff recommendation that the project go forward.

Areas around the township are within the expedited development area.

The 80-page task force report also includes a map of 11 areas in central and western Maine where commercial wind power projects have been proposed or approved for development.

Among those is a 44-turbine project approved for development by LURC that will be constructed by TransCanada in far northern Franklin County on 2,367 acres in the Boundary Mountains north of Eustis.

The report suggests that Maine should host at least 2,000 megawatts of installed wind power capacity by 2015 and at least 3,000 megawatts by 2020. The task force also notes that at least 300 megawatts of the 2020 goal should come from offshore projects.

“The Task Force recognizes that achieving these goals is not entirely within Maine’s control, and will depend on factors such as technology developments, future energy costs, federal policies and more,” an executive summary of the report states.

The report goes next to the Legislature, which would presumably craft new law allowing for and creating incentives for wind power development in Maine.

Lee said he’s optimistic that lawmakers will see that to reach the task force goals, the area in Redington Township, which has been studied for more than a decade and showing strong and consistent winds capable of providing reliable wind power, will be reconsidered.

“In short, the Redington site is one of the few locations within LURC’s jurisdiction that has strong winds, existing infrastructure and a location at the fringe of LURC jurisdiction,” Lee wrote in an open letter responding to the task force report. “Most other high wind areas are not on the fringe and would require significantly more clearing through undeveloped core LURC territory for transmission lines and/or roads.”

Lee maintains his project, nestled between Maine’s two largest ski areas, Saddleback and Sugarloaf, would fit nicely in an area already being heavily developed for recreation.

“They (LURC) were unwilling to do so, so now it’s in the Legislature’s hands,” Lee said. “We do have strong public support and to the extent the Legislature represents the public we are hopeful.”

In a prepared statement, Baldacci thanked the task force for its work in reaching consensus on a controversial issue of wind power development and siting.

“You represent diverse interests and you worked diligently to produce this extraordinary consensus document,” Baldacci said.

Baldacci noted that while wind power is generally a good move for the environment, it is also a good move for Maine’s economy.

“I am also pleased to see the level of wind power development endorsed by this report, which would involve billions of dollars of capital investment in Maine,” he said. “This kind of investment would create jobs and increase tax revenues.”

Baldacci said he would move quickly to incorporate the task force’s suggestions into a governor’s bill for consideration this legislative session.

By Scott Thistle
Regional Editor

Lewiston Sun Journal

15 February 2008