A Missouri-based wind power company has withdrawn its application to build a 23-turbine wind farm in Hancock County.
SunEdison withdrew the application for its Weaver Wind project from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in order to address environmental issues raised by state regulators, according to John Lamontagne, a SunEdison spokesman based in its Boston office.
A DEP staff analysis of the project raised concerns about the proposed wind farm’s potential impact on bats and migratory birds, citing a study by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife that found the mortality risk to birds was the highest recorded for any project in northern New England.
SunEdison disagrees with the study’s conclusions, but requires more time to prepare a response, Lamontagne said.
“We’re going to conduct additional study, follow-up and consultation on the project and plan to refile at some point,” Lamontagne said. “We wanted to ensure adequate time to respond fully to the issues that have been raised by the DEP to date and we did not believe that could occur within the statutory review period.”
SunEdison, through its subsidiary Weaver Wind LLC, had proposed a 23-turbine wind farm with an installed capacity of 75.9 megawatts in the Hancock County towns of Osborn and Eastbrook. The project would have the capacity to power about 30,000 homes annually.
The company has two nearby wind farms, Bull Hill and Hancock Wind. The DEP analysis raised concerns that the combination of the three farms in close proximity would heighten the risk to bats and birds. The DEP staff analysis claims “Bull Hill Wind has recorded the highest estimated per turbine mortalities in northern New England.”
Lamontagne said SunEdison has conducted extensive bird studies at both Bull Hill, which is operating, and Hancock Wind, which is under construction, and said they are not consistent with the state’s findings.
“We’re disappointed to pull the application for this project in that it will delay the economic benefit to the region that it would see once this project starts,” Lamontagne said. “That said, we’re still confident this is a good project and look forward to moving ahead with it in the near future.”
SunEdison, which acquired First Wind in November 2014, has five operating wind farms in Maine, plus another three under construction.
The Weaver Wind project was the only one SunEdison had pending under Maine regulatory review, Lamontagne said.
The Weaver Wind project was also at the center of a political controversy in February when the Maine Public Utilities Commission voted to reconsider a power purchase agreement it had already reached with the company. Critics claimed the three-member PUC was setting a dangerous precedent by reopening the agreement. There was also speculation that politics had a hand in reopening the agreement since the makeup of the commission had changed with the arrival of Carlisle McLean, an appointee of Gov. Paul LePage, between acceptance of the initial agreement and when it was reopened. LePage has been a vocal critic of wind power.
While the company was “disappointed” by the PUC’s actions, Lamontagne said it didn’t have anything to do with its decision to withdraw its application. Weaver Wind LLC has yet to sign a power purchase agreement that would secure a customer for the energy generated at the proposed farm.