MOSCOW – Residents on Thursday will have a chance to set the rules for future wind development projects in their town – which may come sooner than they anticipate.
A special town meeting will start at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Town Hall, where people will vote on a proposed wind energy facility ordinance.
Under the proposed ordinance, which was designed by the planning board over the last several months, any wind turbine would be set back 2,500 feet from a permanent or seasonal residence, would be designed to avoid shadow flicker effects, would have to meet specific sound level limits and would require a decommissioning policy.
There are currently commercial wind projects proposed for Highland Plantation and Bingham, in addition to other locations. “They’re all around us,” Selectman Donald Beane said. “If a company were interested in coming here we’d like to have the regulations ready when and if we might need them.”
That may come sooner than people think.
Testing poles in Moscow and Caratunk have been gathering wind data for a little more than a year. Next fall, the potential developers will know whether a commercial wind project in the two communities is feasible, said Larry Warren, of New Portland, who operates Maine Windpower LLC.
His partner in the potential project is Cianbro Corporation, in Pittsfield. While Cianbro has been involved with constructing wind projects in the past, this would be its first time acting as a developer, Warren said.
The partners currently have a license agreement with landowner Plum Creek for the feasibility study. If the wind results prove positive, the two will enter into a long-term agreement with Plum Creek for the commercial wind project.
The developers are eyeing a ridge in the northern part of town near Mayfield Township, within a mile of the former radar facility.
Moscow’s proposed ordinance doesn’t appear to hinder plans. “We think what they’re proposing is quite reasonable. The land areas that we’ve entered into an agreement with Plum Creek on are really quite remote. There aren’t any residential places nearby,” he said.
“We recognize that the natural resources in that area are particularly important to many of the residents and many of the employers in the region who look to nature-based tourism and hunting and fishing,” he said. “We’d like to work to ensure that those resources are protected or enhanced.”
In the spring, the developers will study possible impacts to migratory birds, bat populations and vernal pools. They will examine groundwater tables and soils. Then they will look for specific turbines with blades to match the wind capacity and towers compatible with the soil.
What drew them to Moscow? The large radar facility built by the Air Force, Warren said, since there are already transmission lines and roads in place. “Putting a wind farm in that area didn’t seem to be anything that would be a significant change in the uses of the region,” he said.
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