July 11, 2008

Work to Start Soon on Franklin County Wind Farm

By Donna M. Perry

FARMINGTON - Construction of a 44-turbine wind farm in northern Franklin County is expected to begin later this summer, TransCanada Corp. spokeswoman Cecily Dobson said Thursday.

TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc., an affiliate of the Canadian energy company, received final approval from the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission on Wednesday for commercial wind turbines in Kibby and Skinner townships.

Pending remaining approvals, TransCanada expects to begin producing electricity in 2009-10, Dobson said.

"TransCanada will continue to work with regulatory agencies and local communities to meet all conditions of approvals and ensure impacts are minimized," Dobson said.

The project has received Maine Department of Environmental Protection permits and is awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

TransCanada's estimated cost for the project is $320 million in U.S. currency, up about $50 million or 18.5 percent, from its initial $270 million estimate.

The initial estimate on development costs was received more than two years ago. Since then, turbines and other items have increased in price, Dobson said.

Construction will take about 27 months and will employ an estimated 250 people for 12 to 18 months, she said. There will be 10 to 12 permanent jobs once the project is operational.

Citizens expressed support and opposition for the project as it moved through the system. An appeal was filed by Franklin County residents on the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission's decision to approve rezoning about 2,700 acres for the project in March. The Attorney General's Office has asked the court to dismiss the appeal because it was not filed in a timely manner.

The project will be built under a tax-incentive agreement approved by the state and Franklin County commissioners in June.

The maximum the county would receive under the tax-increment financing agreement is $4 million, based on a $220-million taxable investment, to invest in economic development in unorganized territories.

The proposal could also return a maximum of $8.9 million to TransCanada to reinvest in the development over 20 years, and $9.3 million in new tax revenue to the state's unorganized territory fund.

It was the second TIF agreement approved for an unorganized territory in the state. The project is the third commercial wind farm to receive approval in Maine. The other two are in Aroostook and Washington counties.

Last year, LURC rejected two versions of a smaller wind farm proposed for Black Nubble Mountain and Redington Pond Range near the Sugarloaf ski resort. Opponents argued that it would damage views from the Appalachian Trail. LURC commissioners indicated the Kibby Mountain area offers less significant scenic views.

Originally published by Staff Writer.

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