Energy company SunEdison is testing wind conditions in the Misery Ridge area of Somerset County with plans to possibly build a 26-turbine commercial wind farm there.
The company installed two meteorological towers in the area this week on land owned by Plum Creek, a forest management company, in the northeastern part of the county near Moosehead Lake. No application has been submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection for the project yet.
“We usually need a couple years of data before we move forward with it if we’re going to,” said John Lamontagne, a spokesman for Missouri-based SunEdison. “I’d say it’s very early in the process. We haven’t submitted an application yet or anything like that.”
The construction of the test towers comes at the same time the company announced it is withdrawing an application for a proposed wind farm in Hancock County, but the two are not related, Lamontagne said. He said the company plans to resubmit the application for the Weaver Wind Project in Hancock County, which was withdrawn on Friday because of issues raised by the Department of Environmental Protection.
The test towers put up this week in Somerset County are 197 feet tall and have no lights on them, according to Raymond Kusche, SunEdison’s manager for development in the Northeast. He said the company is planning to put up a total of six meteorological towers and that construction on the towers should be complete by September. They will be in Johnson Mountain Township, Chase Stream Township, Misery Township and Misery Gore Township.
“If there’s like no wind it doesn’t make sense to put up a wind project, so what we do is we put up these test towers and it basically kind of tests where the wind is coming from, how steady it is and how strong it is over time,” Lamontagne said. “We usually need a couple of years worth of data before a project gets built.”
SunEdison is also working on construction of the Bingham Wind Project, also in Somerset County, which the company acquired when it took over Boston-based First Wind Holdings Inc. in November.
Approval for that project was granted by the Department of Environmental Protection in March and construction has begun on a planned 56-turbine wind farm there, Lamontagne said. Turbine deliveries are scheduled to begin in the end of October.
The sale of First Wind called into question financing for the Bingham project, but SunEdison said in a press release last month that it had secured $360 million in financing towards the overall $420 million cost of the project.
The turbines will be spread across Bingham, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation and there are 120 people working on the project, both on site and off site, Lamontagne said.
Opponents of the Bingham project have said that wind farms have a negative impact on the scenery in rural Maine. Department of Environmental Protection regulations state that scenic impact is only a consideration in evaluating a wind project if turbines fall within eight miles of the area of concern. Lamontagne said Friday that the proposed site in the Misery Ridge area is more than that distance from the lake.
“I can’t speak to what folks who would be concerned about the project or opposed to the project, what their issues would be, but it would be a good distance away from Moosehead Lake, if it gets built,” he said.
Glen Brand, director of the Sierra Club in Maine said Friday that he wasn’t familiar with the proposal but that as it develops it is something the Sierra Club will be carefully looking at.
“We will certainly be monitoring the impact on wildlife, the natural landscape and the trade-off with clean energy, as we do with all major wind projects,” he said. “We like to support clean energy as much as possible in Maine, but it is something we look at very carefully.”
SunEdison also has Maine wind farms in Stetson and Mars Hill. Once completed, the Bingham wind farm will be the largest of the three and will bring the company’s wind energy production capacity to 552 megawatts, according to the July press release.
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