February 1

Review of Bingham wind project to resume this month

The state is considering a proposed 62-turbine project that was put on hold because of concern about threatened bat populations.

By Rachel Ohm rohm@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

BINGHAM — The review of a proposed 62-turbine wind farm that would be the largest in the state will resume this month when the Department of Environmental Protection seeks input form the public at the second of two required public meetings.

The department also has completed a draft analysis of the project that states the project meets most requirements set by the state, the Wind Energy Act and the Natural Resources Protection Act. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 12 at Quimby Middle School in Bingham and will be an opportunity for the public to submit feedback on the project to the department, according to spokesman Dan Courtemanch.

In November, the review of the project was put on hold because of concerns that wind turbines could hurt bats, which also are facing an outside threat from white-nose syndrome, a rapidly spreading disease that has placed two local bat species under consideration for being endangered species.

According to the draft analysis, northern long-eared bats and little brown bats are listed as state species of special concern and are being considered for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. They are among the least common bats to be killed by wind turbines, but concern has risen because of the rise of white-nose, a disease that leads to a white fungus growing on the muzzle of the bat, abnormal behavior and eventually death.

Deaths of those species are occurring around the country and appear to be spreading, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In January the service reported that Arkansas became the 23rd state to confirm the death of bats from white-nose syndrome.

In order to protect the bats, Blue Sky West LLC, the company proposing the wind project, has agreed to adopt a recommendation from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to regulate turbine speeds when the bats are active, according to the draft analysis.

Blue Sky is proposing a 62-turbine, up to 191-megawatt wind power generation operation in Bingham, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation. The project will include up to five temporary meteorological towers, up to five permanent meteorological towers, an electrical collector system, an electrical substation, and an operations and maintenance building. In addition, there will be a 17-mile transmission line running from Kingsbury Plantation to a CMP substation in Parkman. The turbine towers will have a maximum height of about 512 feet, according to the application.

The project is estimated to cost $398 million, and if built it, would be the largest and most expansive wind project in Maine.

At the first public meeting held in July, residents from around the state spoke both in favor of and opposition to the wind project. Those opposed to the project argued that it poses a threat to the environment and the rural character of the land.

Those in favor of the project added that the economic benefit would outweigh any negative aspects. Both Bingham and Moscow have agreements with First Wind, the parent company of Blue Sky, that they would receive annual payments for 20 years. Bingham would receive $8,000 a year for each tower built within the town’s boundaries, and Moscow would get $20,000 a year.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368rohm@centralmaine.com
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