The Maine Board of Environmental Protection’s refusal to overturn its denial of a wind farm at Bowers Mountain in Penobscot County won’t affect a project in Bingham, company officials say.
The Department of Environmental Protection initially rejected the 16-turbine Bowers Mountain proposal by a subsidiary of First Wind Energy in August on the grounds that it would spoil the area’s scenic views. The Board of Environmental Protection, a seven-member citizen group that reviews such decisions, made its decision June 6.
Massachusetts-based First Wind has several other projects in various stages of development throughout Maine, including a proposal for a 67-turbine wind farm in the Bingham area.
First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne said the firm’s difficulty winning approval for that project does not affect its proposals for other wind farms in state.
“We’re obviously disappointed in the BEP decision, we worked hard to make it a project that met state requirements,” Lamontagne said. “At this point we’re determining what the next steps will be.” The State Land Use Regulation Commission also rejected the Bowers Mountain plan.
It’s the first time the environmental board has upheld a denial from the Department of Environmental Protection, according to spokeswoman Jessamine Logan.
The project, which would have put 16 turbines atop Bowers Mountain, which overlooks several lakes, was previously shot down by the Land Use Regulation Commission in 2012 and again in 2013 when the DEP denied a modified version of the project. The board’s deinal last week came after significant changes had been made to the proposal, Lamontagne said.
“We had revised the project dramatically from the earlier iteration to reduce the number of turbines,” Lamontagne said. “We sought to address some of those scenic concerns, but we’re still disappointed.”
A potential threat posed by the Bingham wind project to the area’s bat population has put the project, on hiatus, as the DEP continues to review the project’s application.
The Bingham proposal would be the largest of its kind in the state.
Concerns about the scenic integrity of the area, which includes parts of Bingham, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation, have also been risen, but a subsidiary of First Wind, Blue Sky West, quelled some of those worries earlier this year with a $700,000 land conservation donation.
Logan said the Bingham wind project is still under review, and that the department is taking the visual impact of the project into consideration.
“When companies submit a project application, they have to submit a visual impact assessment and then we go out and review it and look at the visual impact,” Logan said.
The visual impact assessment submitted by Blue Sky West states that the project would be visible from two area ponds: Punchbowl and Bald Mountain ponds. Views of the potential project could be seen from Kennebec River and Wyman Lakes as well, according to the application.
There was no timetable on the Bingham project, but Lamontagne was confident that it met DEP standards.
“We’re continuing onward with the DEP,” he said. “We’re hoping that we’ve answered a number of their questions.”
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