While our attention was first captured by the industrial wind project proposed for Highland Plantation, we have since learned that this rural area has been targeted for extensive wind development for some time. According to public documents, almost a third of Maine’s 2020 goal for wind capacity could be sited in the Upper Kennebec region of Maine’s western mountains. Here, as many as 300 mountaintop wind turbines are possible. Below are the proposals in our area with which we are familiar.
Area wind projects in which we are actively engaged
Highland Wind – Highland Plt., Pleasant Ridge Plt., Lexington Twp.
Highland Wind LLC withdrew its application for a 39 turbine project in May, 2011, after the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife commented that the mountains of Highland Plantation are “not appropriate for intensive wind power development” due to the likely negative impacts on threatened and special concern wildlife. Additionally, residents of Highland Plantation held a press conference in the spring of 2011 to announce that a majority of Highland residents opposed the proposed wind project. Despite all of this, Angus King’s letter of withdrawal stated that Highland Wind LLC would return with a new application and continue its push to place wind turbines on the mountains of Highland.
UPDATE 05/14/15: Dept. of Environmental Protection staff met last week with NextEra Energy with regard to a proposed application submission for a newly configured Highland Wind project. The project proposal as depicted includes 33 3.45 megawatt wind turbines in Highland Plantation, Pleasant Ridge Plantation and Lexington Township. It appears that this project could be combined with the earlier proposal for the West Range Wind project, which included turbines in Pleasant Ridge Plt., Lexington Twp. and Concord Twp. Application submission was estimated to be in early 2016.
UPDATE 03/01/15: In February, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued an order detailing the approval of a long term electricity contract involving a 44 MW wind project proposed for Highland Plantation. Several weeks later, the PUC announced that it would reconsider the Highland Wind contract, and another, to assure they were beneficial to ratepayers. While no permit application has been submitted to the DEP for a Highland project, this activity at the PUC (Docket 2014-00024) is our latest indication that Highland Plt. is still an active target for industrial wind development.
UPDATE 09/30/14: According to a Maine wind industry representative, Iberdrola Renewables hopes to include a portion of the previously proposed Highland Wind project in its Fletcher Mountain project targeting Concord and Lexington Townships. For more information, see below.
Who is Highland Wind LLC? Highland Wind LLC is a partnership between Independence Wind LLC, the Yale University Endowment and Wagner Forest Management. Independence Wind was a partnership between Angus King and Rob Gardiner. (Angus King has since left the partnership and the continued involvement of Rob Gardiner is undetermined.) This same partnership has completed a smaller wind project in Roxbury, Maine.
West Range Wind – Concord Twp., Lexington Twp., Pleasant Ridge Plt.
Three wind resource test towers (met towers) were erected in Concord and Lexington in late 2010 by Iberdrola Renewables (as Atlantic Wind LLC). Since then, one additional met tower has been erected in Lexington. Iberdrola has done its field work and a development permit application could be submitted to the Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) at any time.
Residents in these communities are showing overwhelming opposition to the proposed project. However, a representative for Iberdrola has stated that the company will pursue the project as long as they can legally do so, regardless of the opinions of the people within the affected communities. Concord and Lexington Townships are unorganized; therefore, they cannot be protected from industrial scale wind projects with local ordinances as organized towns can.
Who is Iberdrola Renewables? Iberdrola Renewables is a U.S. subsidiary of Spanish-owned Iberdrola S.A. and claims to be the largest operator of wind turbines in the world. Iberdrola S.A. also owns Central Maine Power through another U.S. subsidiary, Iberdrola USA. They concentrate their wind power development efforts in those regions of the country with aggressive renewable portfolio standards – i.e. those regions where state governments require consumers to buy their electricity. This foreign-owned company is the largest recipient of American taxpayer money to date from American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds under a special wind development program.
UPDATE 03/12/15: Late last year, Central Maine Power (CMP) submitted a request to the Maine PUC regarding a potential transaction between CMP and Atlantic Wind LLC in furtherance of the Fletcher Mountain Wind project (now being referred to as West Range Wind). FHM was granted intervenor status and has been monitoring this case (Docket 2014-00364). During the course of this case, the PUC determined that further investigation into the relationship between CMP and Atlantic Wind would be necessary due to Maine’s utilities deregulation law and the ownership of both CMP and Atlantic Wind (through Iberdrola Renewables) by Iberdrola USA. The PUC has now opened an investigation (Docket 2015-00049) to learn more about the financial relationship, if any, between CMP and Atlantic Wind. FHM will automatically become an intervenor in the new case. It’s unknown how, or if, this will affect Atlantic Wind’s plans or timing for a permit application to the DEP.
UPDATE 01/31/15: Iberdrola Renewables met with Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection officials late in the fall of 2014 and have indicated that a permit application submission could be coming in 2015. On January 17, Iberdrola held an open house at their new office in Bingham. Area citizens were invited to attend and learn more about Iberdrola’s proposed project, which they’re calling West Range Wind. Unfortunately, despite having six representatives on hand, the company offered very few details on the project. They did, however, provide Iberdrola promotional materials, including free t-shirts, hats and bags, emblazoned with their project logo, for anyone wanting to help them advertise.
UPDATE 09/30/14: Iberdrola Renewables has been increasing its activity on the ground in the area, apparently in preparation for an approaching project application submission to the DEP. A wind industry representative indicated that an application could be coming in the spring of 2015 for a project of about 100 megawatts (MW) total using 3+ MW wind turbines, each likely to be at least 500 feet tall. Indications are that the project proposal has been expanded to include not only Lexington and Concord, but also parts of Highland and Pleasant Ridge Plantations.