MARS HILL, Maine – A Texas company will likely apply for state permits within 30 days to build what would be Maine’s largest industrial wind site, officials said Friday.
Representatives of EDP Renewables held a public information session, which drew about 50 people, on the proposed 250-megawatt facility featuring about 120 turbines on Wednesday in Mars Hill. Company officials told Aroostook County commissioners on Sept. 3 that they expected to seek Maine Department of Environmental Protection permits for their Number Nine Wind Farm proposal in late November, officials said.
“I assume that they have been in contact with our staff trying to get all their ducks in a row, so to speak,” Karl Wilkins, DEP’s acting director of communications, said Friday. “We officially have nothing before us, but the clock has started.”
State environmental law requires permit applications to be submitted to Maine DEP within 30 days of such public information sessions, unless more of those meetings are scheduled, Wilkins said.
EDP project manager Katie Chapman and officials at the company’s corporate office in Houston did not return messages left Friday.
EDP officials say that the project would feature 125 two-megawatt or 83 three-megawatt turbines. The 250 megawatts is enough to power 51,400 homes annually, according to information on the company’s website. The cost is estimated at $1 billion and will be financed through power purchase agreements with Connecticut utilities, according to HartfordBusiness.com.
The Number Nine Farm is expected to create 300 seasonal jobs and 10 to 12 permanent positions, according to the website. Landowners representing over 58,000 acres are
participating in long-term lease and easement agreements to the land upon which the turbines, access roads and transmission corridors will be built.
The project would involve five townships near Number Nine Mountain that are each 6 square miles. Township D, Range 2, in which the mountain is located, is in unorganized territory west of Route 1 near Bridgewater and Monticello, according to Paul Bernier, the county’s public works director.
“That’s a big footprint,” Bernier said Friday.
By comparison, the largest wind farm yet approved by DEP, First Wind’s Bingham-based project, will have 62 turbines producing 186 megawatts. That approval came in September. First Wind projected its cost to be $398 million.
EDP first announced its plans in 2007, but problems with how to efficiently transmit the electricity to the New England grid and the availability of long-term contracts for electricity generated from renewable resources forced the company to mothball the project, Chapman has said.
Improvements to transmission efficiency brought the project back to life in 2013, when Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that EDP had signed long-term power purchase agreements with the state’s two major electric utilities, Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating.
EDP officials met informally with Maine DEP in July, Wilkins said.
The environmental group Friends of Maine Mountains opposes the project and is gearing up to contest it when the permitting process begins. The group is working with Aroostook County residents who oppose the project to begin an oppositional organization there, said Chris O’Neil, the group’s spokesman.
The Friends of Maine Mountains group fears that the project would spoil the view from Baxter State Park – which is about 30 miles south of Number Nine Mountain – decrease land values and interfere with the quality of life at about 100 camps, O’Neil said.
The group believes that the transmission line that would be built with the project would allow more industrial wind sites into Aroostook County, further threatening land values and views. Two county biomass energy facilities also might have their profitability and access to the New England power grid threatened by the project, said O’Neil, who traveled about 300 miles to attend Wednesday’s meeting. His list of questions illustrated many of the group’s problems with the project.
“We have a lot of issues that we will continue to air until they are addressed,” O’Neil said.
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