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State approves Kibby wind farm project

State regulators gave final approval Wednesday to a $270 million wind farm and transmission line proposed for the mountains of rural Franklin County.

TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc. plans to erect 44 wind turbines on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range, located near the Canadian border just east of Coburn Gore. The land is a working forest owned by Plum Creek Timber Co.

If constructed today, the Kibby project would be the largest wind farm in New England and would generate enough electricity to power 50,000 homes.

Members of the Land Use Regulation Commission had previously agreed to rezone 2,367 acres to make way for the project. On Wednesday in Orono, LURC voted unanimously to approve TransCanada’s final development permit.

TransCanada officials have said they hope to have the wind farm fully operational by the fall of 2010.

“I imagine they will be breaking ground shortly,” said LURC director Catherine Carroll.

The Kibby wind farm is the second wind-energy project approved by LURC during the past year. The other project, the Stetson Mountain wind farm, is currently under construction on a rural ridgeline near the Washington County town of Danforth.

The only industrial wind-energy facility operating today in Maine is in the Aroostook County town of Mars Hill, although numerous projects are in the works.

LURC rejected two versions of a smaller wind farm also proposed for Maine’s western mountains last year. But unlike that project, proposed for Redington and Black Nubble mountains, the Kibby project is not expected to severely affect views from Sugarloaf/USA ski resort, the Appalachian Trail or other major tourist destinations.

The applicant stated that the surrounding mountains will limit visibility of the turbines from most viewpoints.

“The most significant views would be from the Kibby Mountain fire tower and from Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range themselves,” reads the LURC staff recommendation. “However, this area has relatively low use by the public, and these mountains have not been designated as having regionally scenic significance.”

The Kibby project also did not encounter vocal opposition from local residents concerned about noise from the enormous turbines.

The nearest residence to the Kibby project is 1.2 miles away. Construction of the wind farm and 115-kilovolt transmission line is expected to require construction of 17 miles of gravel roads.

By Kevin Miller

Bangor Daily News

10 July 2008