September 2, 2010

First Wind considering new town to get farm project off the ground

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff, Bangor Daily News, 31 August 2010

EASTBROOK, Maine – As town officials work on language for an ordinance that would regulate how wind farms can be built and operated, First Wind is considering heading east to Township 16 to get its proposed project under way.

David Fowler, senior land manager for First Wind, said Monday that the company hopes to have enough turbines eventually in Eastbrook and neighboring Township 16 for an 80-megawatt capacity wind farm. The turbines would be located on Little Bull Hill in Eastbrook and on Bull and Heifer hills in Township 16.

But First Wind might decide to pursue the first phase of the project only in Township 16, Fowler said. There appears to be a 32-megawatt capacity limit on the Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. line that runs through northern Eastbrook, he said, which means First Wind could develop only that much of the project initially. The company would have to upgrade the capacity of the power line between Township 16 and Otis before it could start generating more than 32 megawatts at the Little Bull Hill site, he said.

Fowler said First Wind hopes to submit sometime this fall permit applications to the state Land Use Regulatory Commission, which regulates development in Maine’s Unorganized Territory.

“Before the snow flies, we hope to have something [turned in to LURC],” Fowler said.

How many turbines might be erected on the three hills is still unknown, according to Fowler, because it depends on what size turbine the company decides to use. If it uses 3-megawatt turbines, that would result in about 25 turbines being erected to achieve an overall capacity of about 80 megawatts at the site. If the firm erects 1.5-megawatt turbines, there could be roughly twice as many.

In Eastbrook, First Wind representatives have been attending meetings held by the town’s comprehensive plan committee to develop an ordinance that would regulate the local development and operation of wind farms. Fowler said the company has been there to observe the proceedings and to gauge the local level of support for wind power development.

“Certainly, it seems they do [generally support First Wind’s plans],” Fowler said.

Last week, the committee voted on a draft version of the ordinance, narrowly giving the document its approval by a split 5-4 tally.

Chuck Yeo, chairman of the committee, said Tuesday that members of the committee appeared to agree there should be a minimum setback of 1 mile between any turbine and nearby residence. Members disagreed, however, over whether that setback requirement should apply to a residential structure or to a residential property line, he said.

Yeo said there seems to be confusion about which scenario committee members voted on last week. He said the committee is expected to revisit and, it is hoped, clarify the issue at its next scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 8.

“Some people are still confused,” Yeo said. “That’s got to be clarified.”

If the committee takes its final vote on the proposed ordinance at the Sept. 8 meeting, Yeo said, the next step would be to schedule a special town meeting so voters could consider adopting it. No date for any such special town meeting has been set, he said.

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