First Wind shrinks proposed Maine wind project

The proposed Bowers Hill wind project in Maine has been shrunk to 48 MW, or about 40% smaller than it was originally conceived three years ago.

First Wind has filed a plan for the site in Penobscot and Washington counties, which reduces the project from 27 turbines to 16, removing them from visually sensitive areas. The size of each turbine has been increased to 3-MW each.

“This is a $100 million project that would be located in rural Maine and has the potential to put nearly 100 Maine companies and hundreds of Mainers to work during the construction phase, with several permanent positions for the life of the project,” said Matt Kearns, Vice President of Northeast Business Development for First Wind.   “The wind industry has invested more than $1 billion in Maine over the last few years and with projects like this we can continue to invest in Maine companies, communities, students and organizations.”

Key changes include:

  • 40% fewer turbines at the project – reduced from 27 to 16 turbines total proposed;
  • Reconfigured turbine locations in response to feedback from the original project;
  • Moved turbines further away from nearby lakes;
  • More efficient turbines to be used – increased generating capacity by 30% per turbine;
  • Will feature state-of-the-art aviation lighting that is radar-controlled, so as to reduce the effects of nighttime lighting. The radar-controlled lights stay off until planes approach;
  • Created watershed fund – dollars could be used to improve deer herd and promote local guiding and other tourism businesses.

The original plan had been rejected in April by the state Land Use Regulation Commission. The Commission accepted a staff recommendation that determined the project would mar the landscape around the site, a nine-lake region and impair the livelihoods of hundreds of nature guides and other tourism-based industries.

First Wind said the Maine DEP has accepted the application and the project now enters the review process. Several environmental groups endorsed the reconfigured project.

“Maine Audubon has been reviewing wind energy projects in Maine for more than a decade, and we consistently advocate for well-sited wind power projects that have minimal impacts to wildlife and wildlife habitat,” said Ted Koffman, Executive Director of Maine Audubon.  “We support the Bowers Wind project because the location avoids high value wildlife habitat, and the project will provide another source of renewable energy in Maine.”

“We support the Bowers Wind project because it strikes the right balance between visual impact and the significant benefits of increased renewable energy production in Maine,” said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine’s Director. “It represents an important step to a cleaner energy economy for Maine and New England.”

The Bowers Wind project will pay about $6m in taxes over the 20-year life of the project, and another $2.8m in community benefits in the form of payments to Carroll Plantation and Washington County, as well as energy rebates to residents.

First Wind currently has four other operational wind projects in Maine, including the 60 MW Rollins Wind project in Penobscot County, the 83 MW cumulative Stetson Wind I and II projects in Washington County, and the 42 MW Mars Hill project in Aroostook County.