Franklin Countys First News

LUPC declines to expand expedited permitting area for wind power project

Five of the wind power turbines located on Kibby Range in northern Franklin County.

[Editor's Note: This post has been corrected, removing references that indicate that the Kibby Range is owned by NextEra. It is not.]

BANGOR - The Land Use Planning Commission voted against adding approximately 25,000 acres to the expedited permitting area for wind power in northern Franklin and Somerset County at its meeting Tuesday. The expansion would have helped facilitate the development of a 130-plus turbine project proposed by a renewable energy company.

NextEra Energy Resources LLC has proposed adding turbines and associated infrastructure to four townships: Chain of Ponds, Seven Ponds and Skinner Township, all in Franklin County, and T5 R6 BKP WKR in Somerset County. Roughly 71 turbines would be north of Route 27, clustered in the Skinner, Kibby and T5 townships, creating the "Moose Wind" project. Another approximately 62 turbines would be south of Route 27 in the Chain of Ponds, Seven Ponds and Alder Stream townships, forming the basis for the "Alder Stream Wind" project. Energy storage containers would be located adjacent to the collection substations.

Kibby and Alder Stream Township are already part of the expedited wind power area created in 2008. Projects in the demarcated area can submit an all-inclusive application to LUPC, dramatically simplifying the permitting process. Additionally, wind power development is automatically a permitted use within the areas, eliminating the need to rezone.

NextEra has been working on the project since late 2015, surveying bird migration patterns, establishing meteorological towers and repeatedly revising its plans due to feedback from resource agencies. The new turbines would produce approximately 460 megawatts, according to the company. In addition to the Moose Wind and Alder Stream Wind turbines, the project calls for the establishment of a generator lead line running through Jim Pond Township to connect to Alder Stream. The energy storage containers at the two sites would be capable of storing up to 100 megawatt hours of power.

Approximately 53 percent of NextEra's project would fall within the existing expedited permitting area.

A map, submitted to the Land Use Planning Commission by NextEra Energy, which shows the proposed expansion of the wind power expedited permitting area. The existing Kibby Wind project turbines are the orange dots.

LUPC can be petitioned to add places to the expedited permitting area. The new places must meet three standards, including that they be a "logical geographic extension" of the existing expedited permitting area, that they meet the state's goals for wind energy and that they be consistent with LUPC's comprehensive land use plan. LUPC commissioners can either accept the petition and proceed to a public rule-making process or deny it.

In a draft letter denying the petition, one that LUPC Chief Planner Stacie Beyer said Wednesday had been approved by the commissioners Tuesday in Bangor, the LUPC staff indicated that NextEra's proposed expansion area was not a logical geographic extension of the existing area. Ridgelines in Skinner and T5, for example, were wholly outside the existing area, the letter noted.

"Expansion of the expedited permitting area to capture the continuation of ridgelines across the existing expedited area boundary involves a logical geographic extension of the expedited permitting area," the letter reads, "expansion of the expedited area to capture entirely new ridgelines does not."

NextEra indicated in its petition that all of a specific bedrock foundation to be a logical geographic extension. The letter drafted by LUPC rejected that argument, however, indicating that individual ridgelines were themselves an "important geologic and geographic characteristic."

The LUPC letter denying the petition also rejected NexEra's argument that the new turbines would share an orientation and general location with the existing Kibby Wind project, and therefore represent a logical geographic extension of the expedited area. The Kibby project predated the creation of the expedited area, the letter reads, and the region was rezoned by the commission for that purpose. The expedited area was then drawn to meet the contours of the existing project, "as evidenced by the small inclusion within Skinner Township that mirrors the D-PD subdistrict."

"Notably, the expedited area was not extended farther into this [Skinner] township," the letter notes.

"In sum," LUPC's response concludes, "the Commission concluded the proposed expansion is not a logical geographic extension of the current expedited permitting area and decided to deny the Petition and not to initiate the rulemaking process."

The decision does not mean an end to the NextEra project. The company could seek to rezone project areas outside of the expedited area for wind power development, a process similar to the one TransCanada went through with the Kibby Wind project. Alternately, as noted by the LUPC, the company could work through the state legislature to add the four townships to the expedited area.

[Editor's Note: This post has been corrected, removing references that indicate that the Kibby Range is owned by NextEra. It is not.]

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27 Responses »

  1. Thank you god! I wont say this is a victory, but hopefully a step in the right direction?

    BAN INDUSTRIAL WIND ON OUR MOUNTAINS!

    Why cant they line the coast with them? There is plenty of wind down there!

  2. Chain of Ponds,Skinner and Seven Ponds are the last prestine deep woods left here in Franklin County. Before you think wind is a win for Franklin County take a ride up there. First stop and take a look at the destruction of the Kibby Mountain Range caused by installing wind mills. I am all for eliminating oil as our primary fuel source but know that destroying that area would be a grave mistake.

  3. Thank goodness! That plan would kill our mountain tourist business. Who wants to go fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, boating, snowmobiling under a cover of windmills? We should think of our whole state as a tourist park, not just those areas designated as such. They have ruined Kibby for me to ever snowmobile, hike it or paint it again.

  4. What I'm sick and tired of is the fact that we can have these lining our mountain tops and making all kinds of energy, be promised all kinds of jobs... be told how GREEN they are.. yet the facts remain.. We don't benefit from them at all.

    They are an eye sore. They look like something out of War of the Worlds peeking at you over the ridge line at the picnic area on RT 27 above Eustis at Sarampass Falls on the Dead River.

    The transportation of each part transported by semi, with State Police escort piece by piece brings to question how long does it take them to pay back the cost of transportation and construction.

    Jobs? One of the biggest lies.. How many people from Franklin County actually work either on the construction or currently work for the company that operates this wind farm?

    Finally the electricity it produces... MADE IN MAINE but NOT FOR MAINE CITIZENS. Nope, we DO NOT benefit at all from it. We have them , we live with them, but they don't power us at all. It all goes to the grid to Southern New England..and if we want any of it, OUR Electric Companies BUY it back. Complete and absolute stupidity.

    Just like the hydro dam on Flagstaff Lake is owned by the same company as the wind turbines. They can drain it as will to power the downstream power dams which again sell the electricity to other states.

    So to sum it up, Thank you to the LUPC for putting their foot down this time and saying NO.

  5. Good job, LUPC. Finally.

  6. Please line my mountains with graceful, majestic windmills instead of ugly, brutish cell phone towers.

  7. Very well said Tom Knight

  8. good! go put them in syria!

  9. Well said Francis Lee. I guess it's better late than never. Now if we could only get Poland Spring to pay a tax on the water that they make a fortune on.

  10. Sure jeff and if we could get everyone to pay a tax on the air we breath....... our property and income taxes could be lowerd big time... As Jim Longley would say 'Think about it'..

  11. Anyone ever seen what happens to these windmills when they become of no use anymore? I have been to the South Shore on the Big Island of Hawaii and there is a windmill graveyard there that is ugly and disgusting, just rotting in the breeze.

  12. Are you kidding? Windmills over cell towers? Get real!

  13. Good news, considering that the negatives (and environmental impact) of the towers far outstrips their benefit.

  14. Colonized Western mountains? Wherefore conservation?

  15. Not much difference Jeremy. Look at the one in Kingfield on Vose Mountain. Not very attracive.

  16. THREE CHEERS FOR THE LUPC ... When you consider that the area being discussed is probably as pristine as it was when Benedict Arnold went through it .... WOW! Can we really allow big corporations to destroy that beauty for the benefit of people who do not even live here and probably have never seen it?
    Merry Christmas everyone.

  17. @ Pete
    The cell tower on Little Vose didnt require acre upon acre of mountain top flattened. Not only did it help with phone service up through Carrabassett Valley it also gave area fire dept. access to radio equipment for emergency situations. The difference is the cell tower actually helps the local area instead of southern new england. If they want such cheap "green" energy let them put them off Cape Cod. Im tired of looking across the views around here and seeing huge blades everywhere.

  18. I may be wrong, but aren't these southern New England states that would be the beneficiaries of this wind power the same ones that are blocking expansion/installation of natural gas pipelines through their states to Maine to help lower out energy costs?

  19. Jesse, the cell tower in Kingfield did NOTHING to improve service in the area. north of it, or south of it.

  20. Well maybe you need a better phone. The only spot with no service is a short stretch of The s turns above the bowling alley. Before that service was lost just above Ira mt.

  21. Jesse, I am not talking about the service of the cell tower. All you folks are complaing about how bad wind mills look. I am saying they do not look any worse than the cell towers

  22. maybe I do. the S7 is a pretty crummy piece of modern communication technology. enlighten us all with what magic phone you own that allows you to make a phone call, or even send a text message, while sitting at the bowling alley? even the owner uses a landline. regardless, back to windmills, the cost/benefit of them is too heavily swayed toward the benefit of southern new england right now. Maine is losing its landscape while the benefit is headed to MA, CT, and beyond. If and when Maine wants to use more green power, will there be a ridgeline left for us? or will we have to buy the power back from MA? If MA wants all this green power, you know where the windmills should be? The Berkshires.

  23. Pete, when was the last time you drove through the gold brook, or spencer roads, or were on top of any of the mountains in Enchanted, T5 R6, Appleton, or really any of the northern peaks in Franklin or western peaks in Somerset counties? I can tell you either never have or not since the wind projects were completed, there is no way that those monster wind arrays can be compared to a single stand-alone cell tower. I just cant understand how that comparison can be made, its like comparing apples to apple trees(big ones)!

  24. well said Jeremy. drive across rte 16 from Bingham to Abbot. I cringe to think about what Somerset and Big Indian wind projects will look like from Moosehead Lake and the top of Kineo.

  25. Jeremy, I have a camp in Eustis. I hiked the Bigelow range and Mt A bram in the fall. When I drive thru Kingfield I dislike what I see on Vose Mountain. Cell tower and the new huge house being built. JUST SAYING.to me it ruins the Mountain tops just like the windmills.

  26. I have an iphone 6 and yes I can send a text while sitting in the parking lot , thebuilding being made of mostly steel blocks service inside the building. That is why they have free wifi for patrons to use. Back to the windfarms they are federally subsidized and yes they normally burn out long before they produce enough power to pay for itself. Let Mass put there own towers up down there and better yet stop relying on the federal government to pay for them pay for it themselves. This country is in enough debt without paying money for big windfarms for people who don't care what happens to our mountains.

  27. Interesting comments, for sure. I sit on the LUPC Comm. and have for the past 5/6 years. Right or wrong., I made the motion to deny the request, and I'm not at all ashamed of doing it. I believe there much better ways of producing power with less damage to the environment, and honestly I do not see any benefit to the people of Maine, in this one, other than the actual development construction work. I believe that we all need to take a hard look at what is going on around us, for the benefit of WHO.

    Maine has much to offer, but we continue to give it away for every wrong reason we can think of. I'll take clean Waters and Pristine Forests as a first choice, every time.

    Bill Gilmore.

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