A Maine planning commission will consider a rule-making petition Wednesday that requests expansion of the expedited permitting area for wind energy development by nearly 25,000 acres in northern Franklin and Somerset counties.
The Land Use Planning Commission meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Dec. 13 at the Spectacular Events Center at 395 Griffin Road in Bangor.
The commission will review NextEra Energy Resources’ petition to expand the expedited permitting area to the townships of Chain of Ponds, Seven Ponds and Skinner, all in Franklin County, and T5 R6 BKP WKR in Somerset County.
NextEra has headquarters in the U.S. and Canada.
The commission’s options are to initiate rule-making or deny the petition, the commission’s Chief Planner Stacie Beyer said.
Central to the commission’s review as it decides how to proceed is whether the proposed expansion is a “logical geographic extension” of the existing expedited permit area, according to Beyer’s memorandum to commissioners.
The purpose of the petition is to initiate rule-making that would expand the expedited permitting area by about 24,777 acres to support the development of NextEra’s Moose-Alder Stream wind power generation facility of up to a total of 460 megawatts, according to the company’s petition.
The petition outlines that the overall project would have about 71 towers in the area north of Route 27 in Franklin and Somerset counties in the townships of Skinner, Kibby and T5 R6 BKP WKR and would be called Moose Wind.
The project would put about 62 turbines in the area south of Route 27 within Franklin County in Chain of Ponds, Seven Ponds and Alder Stream and would be known as Alder Stream Wind.
Geologically, the area along the Maine-Quebec border is referred to as the Boundary Mountains, according to the petition.
Some of the townships or portions of them are already in the expedited permitting area. The existing 44-turbine wind energy facility in Kibby and Skinner townships would be in the midst of the project. NextEra owns the facility that can generate up to 132 megawatts.
The overall project, according to the petition, would be a logical extension of the legislative-approved wind use in a remote and unpopulated area of the state.
Not all townships would have towers. There are proposals for buildings to house batteries and associated equipment. There would also be transmission lines.
NextEra began reviewing meteorological data and previous development in the area in 2015. In 2016, the company initiated its permit process including consultation with state and federal agencies.
The 123rd Legislature enacted “An Act to Implement Recommendations of the Governor on Wind Development, Public Law 2007, Chapter 661,” that became effective April 18, 2008. Among the purposes of the act was to identify areas where permitting for wind power development would be streamlined, according to the memorandum.
The state’s total permitted capacity in the state is 927.2 megawatts through June 10, 2016, according to a Land Use Planning Commission data sheet provided by Beyer. The state’s overall goal under the Maine Wind Energy Act is at least 8,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2030, including 5,000 megawatts from generation facilities in coastal waters.
The planning commission will decide whether the proposal to expand the area meets the necessary criteria laid out in the law.
“If the commission amends its rules to expand the expedited permitting area, grid-scale wind energy development becomes an allowed use in all zoning subdistricts within the newly expanded expedited area,” Beyer wrote in her memorandum.
If the commission decides to enter into the rule-making process to expand the permitting area and the area is expanded, it does not constitute an approval of a particular project. Rather, it changes the application review process and certain criteria for any wind energy development projects proposed in that location, according to Beyer’s memorandum.
State wind energy generation goals
The goals for wind energy development in the state, according to the Maine Wind Energy Act, are that there be:
A. At least 2,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2015;
B. At least 3,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2020, including 300 megawatts or more from generation facilities in coastal waters, or in proximate federal waters;
C. At least 8,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2030, including 5,000 megawatts from generation facilities in coastal waters.
The act defines each generation area.
Source: Chief Planner Stacie Beyer, Maine Land Use Planning Commission.