First Wind is hoping for a second chance at developing a wind farm near Lee. The company has resubmitted an application to place sixteen turbines on top of Bowers Mountain. First Wind retracted the original proposal in 2011 after facing tough opposition.
Vice President of Development for First Wind Matt Kearns said, “What we really focused on with this application is making a smaller, better project that’s responsive to some of the issues that were raised by the folks.”
Tuesday the Maine Department of Environmental Protection began a two-day public hearing on the project. Members and supporters of First Wind will submit the new proposal and those opposing the wind farm will have the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns.
According to Kearns, the new plan is based on the feedback and concerns voiced in 2011 and will not impact the region’s scenery. The current proposal requests the building of sixteen turbine wind farm rather than the original twenty-seven.
Some opponents, like Gary Campbell, remain against the project.
Campbell said, “It’s 16 turbines this time, but they’ve replaced the turbines with taller models and they’re placing them on taller land.”
Campbell is worried the wind farm could hurt the region’s tourism, a industry the area relies heavily on.
“If we have 15% of the tourists decide not to come because there are now turbines on the horizon on what used to be a wilderness type area. A 20% decline in business, a 15% decline in business that’s all it takes to go under,” said Campbell.
First Wind stands by the new plan. According to Kearns, it would help boost the state’s economy.
“We are able to bring new development, new economic opportunities, new jobs, maintain jobs for maine businesses who do this work in this sector. It’s really important,” said Kearns.
Members of the public will be able to ask questions and offer their concerns Tuesday evening at Lee Academy. The public forum will continue into Wednesday.
It will be up to the Department of Environmental Protection to determine if the project is fit to be built this time around.