Plans for a $235 million wind farm in Washington County, in the works since 2013, are before the Maine Land Use Planning Commission for review, a final step before construction can begin.
The state Department of Environmental Protection passed the Apex Clean Energy project on to the commission for review last month after DEP determined the wind farm is an allowed use under its guidelines. The LUPC is the planning authority for the state’s 10.4 million acres of unorganized territory.
Apex, of Chartlottesvile, Va., doing business as Downeast Wind LLC, plans the 126 megawatt, 30-turbine wind farm in the town of Columbia, where seven of the turbines will be, and adjacent unorganized territory of T18 and T24. Besides the turbines, the project will include a maintenance building, three temporary towers, electrical collections corridors, transmission lines, new access roads and improvement to existing roads.
The LUPC on May 19 determined that the wind project is an allowed use in the area, with no rezoning required, but is still reviewing whether the plans meet use requirements for the general management subdistrict, as well as protection districts for floodplains, great pond, remote recreation and wetland.
The commission has asked for additional site information from Apex, including more detailed maps about location of turbines and other elements, and a history of the land division on the site.
Apex officials said once permitting is complete, construction will begin this year or next, with the wind farm going online in 2023 or 2024. The company has said it expects to create six permanent jobs, as well as 164 temporary jobs during construction. The 126 megawatts produced annually is enough to power 38,000 homes, the company said.
While Apex is headquartered in Virginia, the local Downeast Wind development team includes Portland-based engineering company Stantec; Sewell Engineering, of Old Town; TJDA landscape architects, of Yarmouth; Portland law firm Verrill; Bodwell Enviroacoustics, of Brunswick; and energy development firm Flycatcher, of Brunswick.
Downeast Wind, Columbia, county revenue agreements
In February, the town of Columbia and the Washington County Commissioners approved separate tax increment financing and community benefit agreements that total close to $20 million. Aside from the guaranteed revenue, the agreements also guard against tax shift losses, preserving state aid levels for the town and county, Downeast said.
The agreements include:
Downeast Wind’s $235 million overall price tag represents total investment in the project, including turbine contracts, the company said. Some $85 million will be a direct investment in Washington County – on things like construction costs, infrastructure improvements and landowner payments.
Seven turbines will be in Columbia, along the northern edges of blueberry barrens and to the north of Baseline Road. Another six are in the Thousand Hills area of T18; six are in the Crebo Flat and Hawk Hill Road area of T18 and the remainder are in T24, according to the project description filed with LUPC.
Since planning began eight years ago, developers have reduced the number of turbines from 57 to 30, and also relocated parts of the project to have less of an impact, both environmentally and visually. The changes include no longer planning development of T19 and eastern parts of T24, to minimize the impact of Schoodic Lake views as well as on the area’s blueberry crop.
Developers presented the changes in a virtual public meeting in March.
The project is the company’s first major one in New England, but has completed 13 wind and solar developments in Texas, Oklahoma and Illinois.
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