Belfast – A caravan of trucks bearing wind turbine components that made two mostly uneventful transits through Belfast in 2009 and 2010 is scheduled to return in August, and this time the turbines are bigger.
Mack Point Cargo Terminal in Searsport has become a major port for wind turbines manufactured in Europe and destined for wind farms in the mountains of western Maine, and for the third year in a row, the preferred Route has been south on Route 1 to Route 3, then west from Augusta.
For many towns along this route the passing of the turbines offered a chance to see some massive machinery pass up close. But Belfast was dragged deeply into the process when engineers for the transportation company determined that some of the trucks bearing components would not fit under the High Street and Waldo Avenue overpasses on Route 1.
Prior to the first shipment in 2009 – bearing components for TransCanada’s 44-turbine Kibby Mountain Wind development – engineers proposed a detour, ultimately approved, which required crossing the oncoming traffic lane on Route 1, traveling up the northbound onramp to Field Street, descending beyond the overpasses by way of the northbound off ramp, then crossing back into the southbound lane on Route 1.
At the time, the Belfast City Council made several requirements, including that the turbines be moved at night. In practice, fewer trucks had to use the bypass than were originally projected, and several trees that engineers initially claimed would have to be removed were allowed to remain.
For two years, the turbine parts passed through the city uneventfully; City Manager Joe Slocum said the only complaint he has received was from the owner of a property on which a tree – located in the city’s right-of-way – was removed this year to make way for the turning radius of trucks carrying larger components than in past years.
According to Pat DeFilipp of Reed & Reed, the company that transported the Kibby Mountain turbines in 2009 and 2010, a new shipment of turbine components will be traveling the same route on the way to the proposed Record Hill wind development in Roxbury.
Record Hill, slated to have 22-turbines, is a development of Independence Wind, a Brunswick-based company co-founded by former Gov. Angus King and former Maine Public Broadcasting Network President Rob Gardiner.
Though the 2.3-megawatt turbines headed for Record Hill have a smaller nameplate output than the 3MW turbines used on Kibby Mountain, DeFilipp said the blades on the Record Hill turbines are longer. As a result, two trees, including a maple in front of a High Street residence that was spared in past years, were cut down to make way for the turning radius of the longer blades.
DeFilipp said one of two shipments of turbine components has arrived at Mack Point terminal and a second is en route. The schedule has yet to be finalized, but DeFilipp said he expected the subcontracted trucking company, Anderson Trucking Services, to be making three to four trips per day, six days a week for eight to 10 weeks.
The majority of the trips would pass through Belfast in the early morning, DeFilipp said.
Among city officials, there has been some discussion about the longterm use of what was originally a last minute detour, including the idea that the Maine Department of Transportation should raise the overpasses, but Slocum said the city has made no formal request and he knows of no plans from MDOT to modify the route.
The city manager said he plans to take note of the larger loads passing through the city this year, and speak up if he sees any problems, but said the absence of complaints in past years suggests that things are currently working well.
The turbine component bearing trucks, he said, are similar to many other oversized loads that travel the state’s roads, like mobile homes, or the massive electrical transformer that made a slow crawl from Searsport to Benton on Aug. 1.
Meanwhile, he sees Mack Point being used as a regional resource, and wind energy development in Maine getting beyond some of its growing pains.
“I really think there’s great potential for this industry in the state and I’m glad to support it,” he said.
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