Wind power project moving forward in Carthage
CARTHAGE - A wind power project is quietly moving forward on Saddleback Mountain in southern Franklin County, with the developer hoping to begin initial infrastructure improvements as early as this fall.
The project would situate 12 or 13 turbines along the mountain's ridge on 1,000 acres of privately-owned land. The developer, Patriot Renewables LLC out of Quincy, MA, is also looking into leasing 320 acres of town-owned property at the summit of Saddleback Mountain to install another four or five turbines there.
The mountain, which is listed as 2,572 feet in elevation at the peak, should not be confused with the larger Saddleback Mountain in northern Franklin County. The ridge of Carthage's Saddleback runs nearly perpendicular to the path of prevailing winds, and Patriot Renewables' Project Manager Andy Novey believes that the conditions are perfect for the proposed 34.5 megawatt wind farm.
"Wind resources in Maine are a matter of elevation," he said, "and this site is almost perfect. It's positioned well and a lot of the roads and transmission lines are already in place."
An access road would be constructed off of Winter Hill Road, and transmission lines would be strung to bring generated power down the Route 2 corridor.
The company is a subsidiary of Jay Cashman Inc., a civil and marine construction firm with offices along the east coast, and constructed and currently operating a 3-turbine project in Freedom on Beaver Ridge, although that project had been developed by a different company. In addition to the Carthage project, Patriot Renewables is developing a "nine to 11 turbine" project in Woodstock and has conducted wind studies elsewhere in the state.
According to Novey, the company installed a meteorological tower on Saddleback Mountain in November 2008, after acquiring options to purchase privately-owned property along the ridge. Permits will likely be filed with the Department of Environmental Protection in March, as the company continues to work with Carthage's board of selectmen to secure a lease for the 320 acres of land at the summit.
That area has been held in conservation by the town since 2001. That Patriot Renewables is providing 800 acres to the west of the project to be held in conservation in exchange for Carthage allowing development on the summit. Novey said the company would also provide easements allowing access through the project for the town.
The impact of the project could be significant for Carthage. Selectman Stephen Brown estimated the town's current valuation at a little less than $27.3 million, and the Saddleback Mountain project would double that. Brown noted that the increase wouldn't have an enormous impact on the tax commitment as Carthage, which currently has the lowest valuation to population ratio in Franklin County, pays most of its taxes to the local school district, Regional School District 10, and to the county.
"It's not as great an impact as it would be in a wealthier community," Brown said. "We'll be paying more of our fair share to the schools and the county."
Still, the project has other potential benefits. If four or five turbines were situated on town land, Carthage could receive royalties for those turbines. Brown noted that different proposals for that money had been brought forward by residents, including setting up an education fund for Carthage students. The project is also expected to bring in three or four jobs, which is not insignificant in a town of 530.
There are potential disadvantages as well. Wind power turbines of this size approach 400 feet in height, including the blades, and generate some sound. Brown said that some residents had expressed concerns with the visual impact.
The town of Carthage has no comprehensive plan, after residents voted it down at town meeting. From the town's point of view, the privately-owned land portion of the project can proceed without any further votes or action from the selectmen. The public-owned portion would require some sort of lease agreement, which Brown said would be brought before residents at town meeting for their consideration.
Novey said that ideally the company was looking to start road construction work in the late fall, with turbines going up in the summer of 2011 and beginning operation later that year.
"Who would have ever thought a little town like Carthage would have an industrial base," Brown said, "and a clean energy one at that."