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LURC to decide on 19-tower Down East wind farm

AUGUSTA, Maine – A state regulatory board will decide Wednesday whether 19 towering windmills will go up on two ridges in Hancock County for a $70 million energy project.

The Land Use Regulation Commission will meet in Ellsworth to vote on the proposal by Blue Sky East LLC of Portland, an affiliate of First Wind. The Massachusetts-based First Wind owns three of the four operating utility-grade wind farms operating in Maine.

The proposal before LURC calls for towers on Bull Hill and Heifer Hill near Eastbrook in central Hancock County. The turbines would be built on 312-foot towers. With the blades fully extended, the total height would be 476 feet.

A new substation at the site would convert the power to 115 kilovolts

and send it directly to Bangor Hydro Electric Co.’s transmission line. The project will be less disruptive than others because access roads and transmission lines have already been built, Kelly Boden, an attorney representing Blue Sky East, told LURC members when they gave the project tentative approval in August.

The project encountered criticism from a group called Concerned Citizens of Rural Hancock County, which called for a more thorough look at the project’s impact on wildlife around lakes in the area.

But the commission concluded after its review that the project met the state’s land use standards and efforts were made by the developer to minimize the impact on the environment.

The Bull Hill project comes up for a final vote two months after Maine’s newest grid-scale wind project, Rollins, went online. First Wind’s Rollins is located in several towns in Penobscot County, and the company’s proposal to put a wind farm near Bowers Mountain in Penobscot and Washington counties is pending before LURC. The commission is scheduled to begin deliberations on the Bowers project on Wednesday.

In western Maine, Independence Wind’s 22-turbine Record Hill project is scheduled for completion in November, Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, said Tuesday.