Kibby Wind work may begin in August; But the developer says challenges such as fluctuating currency rates could stand in the way
Construction could begin on the $270 million Kibby Wind Power project in August, assuming the economics fall into place, the developer said.
Half of the 44-turbine plan could be completed by the fall of 2009. The other half of the Franklin County project should be done in the summer of 2010, said Nick Di Domenico of TransCanada, director of the Kibby project.
Maine has the most wind power potential of any New England state – Gov. Baldacci’s Task Force on Wind Power has set a goal of 3,000 megawatts by 2020 – and is relatively close to growing markets for green energy in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
TransCanada received approval from the Land Use Regulation Commission in March to rezone land for the project. Additional permits should be received this summer, Di Domenico said.
Catherine Carroll, director of the commission, said TransCanada’s application for the siting of the development is under review by state agencies and could go to the commission sometime in the next two months.
Regulatory changes enacted this year have streamlined the regulatory process for future wind power projects, but Di Domenico said developers face other challenges, including fluctuating currency rates. Those hurdles make it difficult to say with certainty that the Kibby project will go forward, he said.
“I personally remain hopeful that work will start in August and we will find a way to get (the project economics) where they need to be,” he said.
Di Domenico said TransCanada is positive about the future of wind power in Maine and New England. He said the Legislature’s enactment of recommendations from the governor’s task force will help.
Those recommendations created a more streamlined permitting process for wind power projects in most of the state and provide more certainty in the permitting process for sites in LURC jurisdiction.
The permitting process for the Kibby project took about two years, Di Domenico said. Under the streamlined process, he estimated it might require less than half as much time.
John Kerry, director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security, said the enactment of the wind power task force’s recommendations has made the permitting process much more predictable for developers.
Developing 3,000 megawatts of wind power in the state, however, will require improvements to both transmission capacity and technology.
“Our long-term plan is very positive. It is not going to be easy, but if you look at it over time, the issues of 2008 are not the same issues we will face in 2018 or 2030,” Kerry said.
While wind power now makes up a little more than 1 percent of the state’s generation capacity, as it grows, it will reduce the state’s dependence on increasingly expensive and volatile fossil fuel, Kerry said.
If Maine can lower the cost of electricity, it will benefit consumers and businesses, encouraging the growth of jobs, Kerry said. Wind farms will also increase the tax base of the communities where they are built. Those benefits make conserving energy and producing clean electricity great ways to invest in economic development, he said.
Blethen Maine News Service
28 April 2008
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