LINCOLN, Maine – Protesters who feel that the $130 million Rollins Mountain industrial wind facility is a blight upon the landscape will be among those on hand at the project’s ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, one of the group’s organizers says.
“Two groups should stand together to protest the ribbon-cutting of the soon-to-be operational wind project: people from the Lincoln Lakes region who are affected by the project and people from all over the state who strive to stop the proliferation of industrial wind power in Maine,” said Brad Blake, a leader of the Friends of Lincoln Lakes group that has been fighting in Augusta and in the courts to stop the northern Penobscot County project.
The invitation-only event will be held at the Rollins site off Route 6 at 11:30 a.m. to commemorate the completion of the project, said Travis Small, a spokesman for First Wind, the Massachusetts-based owner of the project.
The state’s first wind site that will generate electricity for Maine’s utility rate payers, the 40 1½-megawatt turbines at Rollins are just about ready to start. Financed partially with an $81 million construction loan and a $17 million letter of credit by Key Bank National Association and Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, Germany’s 10th largest financial institution, the project is expected to have a maximum capacity of 60 megawatts, though such projects typically create no more than 30 percent of their capacity.
The turbines are on ridgelines in Burlington, Lincoln, Lee and Winn. Site clearing and other prep work began in late September, with pouring of the turbine’s concrete bases and turbine assembly starting in October.
Nearly 200 industrial turbines – most standing nearly 400 feet tall, from base to blade tip – are now spinning or being built in locations from Aroostook County to Vinalhaven in Penobscot Bay.
The project is among many opposed by anti-wind groups, which say such wind farms harm wildlife and threaten human health, lower land values and are federal and state investments of questionable worth.
The groups have lost all of their legal fights against Rollins, but they haven’t stopped fighting, and they claim that their memberships are increasing as more projects start around the state.
Blake said the protesters will be there in part to “engage the media” and prevent an imbalanced picture of such projects from emerging.
Local officials and project proponents said that about 200 workers have been regularly employed, and as many as 500 have done brief stints on the site, since construction began in September 2010. Contractors said the project provided a bounty of work for them and many town businesses. Daigle Oil, Hogan Tire Co., Evergreen Enterprises LLC., Access Auto & Lincoln Powersports, Clay GMC Truck Inc., Walmart, the town’s three hardware stores and its restaurants and hotels have received a temporary but powerful infusion of business from servicing the construction effort, business owners have said.
Town leaders said that about $267,000 in anticipated tax-increment financing revenue generated by the project has helped the town maintain its property tax rate at 20.12 mills while hiring an additional police officer and making several purchases totaling close to $500,000.
Blake predicted that the blight such projects represent won’t be apparent to local residents until the turbines go operational, saying that noise disturbance from the project is inevitable.
If protests occur at the site, it won’t be the first time. Anti-industrial wind protesters picketed the project in early November, with several arrests occurring. Prosecutors dropped charges against five protesters in May, saying in their motion to dismiss the charges that the protesters planned to use “the process for the purpose of political speech and protest.”
“The state feels that employing the court process for this purpose would be an unwise use of public funds and unfair to victims of other criminal cases awaiting trial, especially child abuse and spousal matters,” the motion read.
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