The Board of Environmental Protection on Thursday will consider whether to reverse a Maine Department of Environmental Protection decision to reject developer First Wind’s proposal to build a 16-turbine wind farm in Down East Maine.
The company is appealing a 2013 decision by the DEP that turned down the Bowers Wind project.
The BEP is a citizen-led board that hears cases rejected by the department, and it will consider Bowers Wind at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center, 76 Community Drive, Augusta.
The Bowers Wind project, in Penobscot and Washington counties, would generate 48 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 22,000 homes.
The department’s staff, as it did in 2013, is again recommending the project be turned down, according to state documents filed in advance of Thursday’s meeting. In its 2014 recommendation, DEP staff wrote that Bowers Wind, which would be located on 34 acres on Carroll Plantation in Kossuth Township, “would result in an unreasonable adverse effect on the scenic character” of the region.
Gary Campbell, president of the residents’ group Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, said Saturday that the staff recommendation is “a good sign” but no guarantee of success for those opposed to the wind project.
“I think it’s going to be really hard for a board to reverse a recommendation by an agency that spent the better part of a year researching this,” Campbell said. “This could destroy some of Maine’s best scenic views.”
First Wind, which is trying to develop four wind energy projects that would total $1 billion in investment, argues that the wind turbines meet “visual standards of the state law.”
“We are hopeful the BEP will recognize the project falls within state standards and see the benefits the project brings,” said First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne.
Lamontagne also released a statement arguing that the project “will deliver real economic benefits to these communities without having a negative impact on recreation” and “reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.”
In one 2013 case, the BEP overturned the department and approved the Passadumkeag Mountain wind project by developers Penobscot Forest and Passadumkeag Windpark.
First Wind, which operates in six states, currently has four wind projects in Maine. However, Maine officials are now asking First Wind to prove that it has the financial backing to expand after a Maine Supreme Judicial Court decision in March voided a joint venture between the company and Emera Inc., a Nova Scotia energy company. First Wind officials have said they have multiple funding sources and the company, regardless of the status of the joint venture, has the financial capacity to continue with the Maine projects under development.