Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By Rachel Ohm email@example.com
BRIGHTON PLANTATION — The town of Brighton Plantation and a group of local activists will host a meeting Saturday to discuss changes to an application to build a 62-turbine wind farm in the Bingham area.
The goal is to make people aware of the updates to the project application, which was originally submitted in May by Boston-based energy company First Wind, said Hilary Lister, an independent activist in Somerset County and one of the organizers of the meeting. Since then, the application has been updated significantly, including a new recommendation on the wind speed at which turbines can operate and an additional type of wind turbine that has been approved for use.
According to First Wind’s application, the project would include an approximately 20-mile corridor with 62-turbines that would run through Bingham and Mayfield Township, just north of the Solon border and along the Brighton town line.
In 2010, Brighton Plantation was also approached by First Wind about a potential site for the project, but the town has a zoning ordinance that doesn’t allow for commercial and industrial development in town, said Michael Vernon, a member of the town planning board also involved in the organization of the meeting. Because the proposed project would still be located in the neighboring towns of Bingham and Mayfield Township, Vernon said there are concerns about the wind development’s impacts.
“We still have concerns in town that our ordinance is respected. The project is right across our border and some of us are concerned that with it being so close to our town borders and us being a small town whether they will be respecting our borders,” said Vernon.
Neither First Wind nor the Department of Environmental Protection, which oversees the application process, will be providing information at the meeting.
“It’s more just for members of the community to be able to share what they know because there are a lot of conversations that have been informal. This is just an effort to inform ourselves,” said Lister.
It is also an opportunity for those who have concerns about the project to meet, said Vernon.
“No one’s point of view is meant to be the final word, but it’s meant to further a public dialogue so that people who live in the area can make a decision about something that will be affecting us for generations,” he said.
The meeting will be at 1 p.m. at the Brighton town office.
In July, the department held the first of two public meetings required as part of the application process. A decision on the application was originally expected in November, but has been stalled due to changes in the application and revisions in department recommendations.
There is no estimated date for when a decision might be made on the application, said Jessamine Logan, a spokeswoman for the department on Friday.
She said they are in the process of scheduling a second public meeting. A public meeting is different from a public hearing, where public testimony is recorded by the department often for input on a decision, said Logan. A public meeting is a more informal gathering where officials share information, listen to comments and answer questions.
Since the original submission of the First Wind application, the department has expressed concern for two bat species found in the Bingham area, the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat, according to the application.
The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife has placed northern long-eared bats in Federal Endangered Species status, prompting state agencies to re-evaluate their policies on curtailment, the speed at which wind turbines are allowed to turn freely.
In December, the state department adapted a new curtailment policy for the Bingham project that is more protective than previously permitted wind projects in Maine, according to the application.
The company has also applied to use a third model of wind turbine, the use of which was approved in December. According to the application, the Vesta V112-3.3 MW turbine, would be slightly taller than the other two types of turbines that have been approved, but would still be in accordance with permitted noise levels.Rachel Ohm— 612-2368 firstname.lastname@example.org