Saturday, August 30, 2008

Work begins on Kibby wind farm

Sun Journal

By Donna M. Perry , Staff Writer

Friday, August 29, 2008

FARMINGTON - Work on the $320 million Kibby Wind Power project has started on Kibby Mountain in northern Franklin County.

The project that will span Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range in Kibby and Skinner townships has moved from the regulatory and business development stage to the implementation stage.

The 44-turbine commercial wind farm has received all permits to move forward, project manager Wolfgang Neuhoff said Thursday.

TransCanada MaineWind Development Inc., an affiliate of TransCanada Corp., a Canadian-based energy company, is also asking Maine Land Use Regulation Commission for approval of some minor amendments to the permit that will reduce environmental impacts, he said.

In the meantime, clearing for the 17 or so miles of roads has started and TransCanada has started work with engineering, procurement and construction contractor, Reed & Reed of Woolwich.

"They will be constructing the roads and the foundations for wind turbines and will be erecting the wind turbines," Neuhoff said. "They will also construct the electrical collector system - the lines that transport the power to the substation."

Ongoing clearing work is being done by Plum Creek, which owns the land TransCanada is leasing for the project. Once some of the timber was removed for the proposed roads leading to where the turbines will be erected, it gave the company better information to develop a revised layout that will lessen the impact on the environment, Neuhoff said.

Reed & Reed is doing survey work and geotechnical work. The latter entails drilling holes and collecting rock samples to analyze for strength and composition, he said.

The contractor will start construction of roads this week, either by improving what already exists or building new roads.

"We are now planning to have the first set of 22 turbines completely erected and online in December 2009," Neuhoff said. "The first turbine will be going up in June. The second set of 22 turbines is targeted to be on line in 2010."

Two other major contract packages for the project are going out to bid.

One is for engineering and construction of a substation off Gold Brook Road, a well-maintained logging road, and the second contract is for the construction of 27.7 miles of transmission line to connect the Kibby substation with Central Maine Power Co.'s Bigelow substation in Carrabassett Valley.

"The work is scheduled to be awarded in the middle of October and construction on transmission line will start this fall and continue through winter," Neuhoff said.

The installation of a temporary office for contractors and TransCanada started Thursday at the beginning of Gold Brook Road, off Route 27, in Chain of Ponds Township.

It is estimated about 250 people will be employed during the construction phase of the wind farm, and it is expected there will be 10 to 12 permanent jobs once the project is operational.

The project is being built under a tax-increment financing agreement approved by the state and Franklin County commissioners in June. It is the second TIF agreement in the state to be approved for an unorganized territory and the third commercial wind farm to receive approval to be built in Maine.

TransCanada's taxable investment covered under the 20-year TIF is capped at $220 million in value with the minimum amount invested at $150 million. Anything over the $220 million valuation would be assessed taxes that would go into the statewide unorganized territory fund.

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