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Planning Board to hear wind turbine pitch

FARMINGTON – A wind energy company is interested in building four wind turbines on a Bailey Hill Road farm in Farmington and plans to make a presentation to town officials at a meeting Monday night.

Associated Wind Developers, a Plymouth, Mass., company that facilitates wind turbine projects, will make its initial pitch to the town Planning Board at its 6 p.m. meeting in the Town Office basement.

Matt Damon, a site analyst for the company, will address the board about some of the town regulations that could apply to the project, which seeks to build four American-made Aeronautica Windpower 750 kW wind turbines, he said.

Damon characterized the project as being in the preliminary stages, with no official requests or applications filed yet with the town.

“It’s more of a concept at this point and we’re just trying to see if there’s interest in the town,” he said.

The turbines described on the meeting agenda can range from 241 feet tall to 302 feet tall, according to the Aeronautica Windpower website.

Damon called them smaller than the “king-size turbines” that can be more than 400 feet tall. His company helps wind energy firms make deals to build turbines on suitable land, he said, declining to provide other details.

The company has been talking to the owners of Bailey Hill Farm about building the turbines somewhere on their property, according to Steve Kaiser, the town’s code enforcement officer.

Konrad Bailey, who owns the family farm, said Friday that his dairy operation has been struggling in recent years, prompting him to look into wind energy as another source of revenue.

“It’s one of those things that agriculture isn’t a real lucrative business and I have a piece of property with a lot of wind and (building wind turbines) has always intrigued me,” he said.

Bailey, 49, is the third generation to farm the land, which has been in his family for 200 years, he said, declining to give details about the farm and property.

“We’re exploring all the different options,” he said, referring to the wind turbine project.

Planning Board members will be looking at whether the project meets criteria in the town’s site review ordinance, as well as certain zoning rules that apply to this type of project, Kaiser said.

He didn’t know what specific rules may apply because the board is waiting for more details on the proposal. There are plans to construct a small meteorological tower at the site to determine if there is enough wind to make building the turbines financially viable, he said.

Town officials have been working on an ordinance to regulate wind turbine construction in Farmington, Kaiser said. Residents were set to vote on the issue at the annual Town Meeting in April, but just days before the meeting officials learned that the ordinance still needed to be reviewed by the town Zoning Board.

Kaiser didn’t know when the ordinance will be ready to go before voters. The ordinance would add local rules for turbine noise, setbacks and other wind-energy issues to the town’s current zoning ordinance.

A draft of the ordinance was provided to Associated Wind Developers, so the company knows what regulations are being considered by the town. Company officials told Kaiser that their plans would meet the rules described in the initial draft, he said.

Some town officials and residents view these ordinances as the only local control over wind energy development. Projects must meet state guidelines but they can also be forced to meet local ordinance standards, which many Maine communities have enacted.