FARMINGTON – Imagine a wind energy project that creates jobs for Americans, lowers a community’s power rates and doesn’t feature wind turbines more than 450 feet tall.
That’s the sales pitch Aeronautica Windpower made to residents and town officials in Farmington, where the Plymouth, Mass., wind energy company hopes to build four wind turbines on farmland on Bailey Hill Road.
Brian D. Kuhn, principal owner of the company, described how his projects are taking a different approach compared to big commercial wind farms that feature giant wind turbines built in foreign countries.
Kuhn wants to build four 750-kilowatt wind turbines on property owned by Bailey Hill Farm. He told the dozen residents and town officials at a Planning Board meeting Monday night that the project is part of a new shift in the industry, calling it a community-based model instead of the more familiar commercial projects.
His plan calls for mid-sized wind turbines that are 298-foot-tall structures, to the highest point of the turbine blade. The company also would try to sell the cheaper energy to the town, a business or public entity that would benefit residents in town, Kuhn said.
The turbines are built in a factory in New Hampshire. Their smaller size reduces common concerns tied to the machines – for example, noise and shadows from the turning blades and effects on the landscape, he said.
The presentation was the first step in Kuhn’s proposed project. The company still is gathering information before it decides whether to submit an application to the town Planning Board, he said.
Residents who live near the farmland are still concerned about how the turbines would affect them, according to Brian Demshar, whose Osborne Road home overlooks the farm.
The 31-year-old asked how the turbines would affect his view and property value.
“My concern is the view, and a lot of the other residents’ concerns are the view,” Demshar said.
“I’ve got a beautiful view of the hills and the farms,” he said.
Demshar plans to withhold judgment on the project until he finds out how the turbines would change that view, something he feared could lower his property value, he said.
Kuhn said a community forum and detailed presentation would be held before the project moves forward. There would be an on-site presentation about the project, as well as photos that simulate what the landscape would look like with the turbines, he said.
Konrad Bailey, who owns the family farm, is talking with the company, which would lease the land and sell the energy, according to Kuhn, who also owns Associated Wind Developers, a company that secures the deals with landowners to build the turbines.
If the project moves forward, the company hopes to reach an agreement to sell the cheaper power to the town, the local school district, the University of Maine at Farmington or other entities in the community, he said.
Kuhn plans to return to the Planning Board to present more details about the project. His company still is gathering data from a meteorological tower on whether there is enough wind at the site to support the project, he said.
Planning Board members will be looking at whether the project meets criteria in the town’s site review ordinance. The board’s consideration of whether to approve the project would be based on how it affects the property.
Town officials have been working on an ordinance to put more specific regulations on wind energy in Farmington, but the ordinance has been delayed in getting to voters and the Bailey Hill Road project would have to meet only state regulations on wind energy projects.
Planning Board member Tom Eastler, who helped write the initial draft of the town’s ordinance, said that the project being proposed would meet the requirements being looked at by the town.
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