PORTLAND, Maine – The renewable energy giant SunEdison has asked a bankruptcy judge to approve its sale of various wind projects, including a proposal near Moosehead Lake that has generated local opposition.
SunEdison wants to sell the proposed 26-turbine project on Misery Ridge as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and it has asked a court to allow the renewable energy division of the Houston-based NRG to serve as the starting bidder, or stalking horse.
NRG has agreed to place a starting bid of $144 million for around 2.1 gigawatts of SunEdison project capacity, of which the 85-megawatt Somerset wind project is a small part.
The project has not yet applied for a permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, but it did set up several towers to collect wind data and evaluate the project’s potential at that site.
That project and another proposed for near Moosehead by EverPower have both spurred the Moosehead Region Futures Committee to develop opposition research, with the help of the group Saving Maine.
News of the bidding process comes as a group of southern New England states is considering bids for renewable power generation, including the Somerset project and others SunEdison had proposed before its bankruptcy.
It bid those projects alongside two new transmission line proposals, one tapping wind resources in Aroostook County through a joint project of Emera Maine and Central Maine Power Co., and another proposed by CMP stretching into western Maine.
Richard McDonald, Saving Maine’s president, said his group anticipated the proposed sale and recently commissioned a study assessing the scenic impact of the Somerset project and EverPower’s on the area around Moosehead Lake, done by the same firm that led environmental consulting on the proposed offshore Cape Wind project.
McDonald said he views the fight over the possible project in Moosehead as having broader implications.
“If you really want to send a signal that you’re willing to sell whatever it is that you have to these out-of-state corporations that are here developing wind, then Moosehead would be top on my list,” McDonald said.
That site is not the only one wind developers are eyeing for upcoming projects in Maine, both at sites disclosed and still undisclosed. In total, generators have signaled an interest in connecting more than 4,200 megawatts of wind power to the grid in Maine, based on data from ISO-New England, the regional electric grid administrator.
McDonald said he hopes his group can hit back against some of that development pressure, which he said involves funding studies such as the one from ESS Group, which includes images of how the projects would change specific views near or along the lake.
“You can talk and talk until you’re blue in the face, but unless you have something concrete, then it’s hard to show,” McDonald said.
Last week, McDonald said the group held a public information session about the results of the study and to take questions from residents about both projects proposed for the Moosehead region.
As the possibility of a new owner looms for the Somerset project, McDonald said his opposition group remains “in a public education mode.”
While registering staunch opposition to the projects, McDonald said the primary goal is to level a playing field with developers who he says have a clear financial interest in commissioning their own professional studies in the interest of advancing their projects.
The federal bankruptcy court in for the Southern District of New York is scheduled to hold a hearing Thursday on SunEdison’s proposal to sell its Somerset project and others through a bankruptcy auction.
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