Friday, April 03, 2009

Wind power generates interest in Sumner

By Tom Standard , Special to the Sun Journal
Friday, April 3, 2009

SUMNER - A standing-room-only crowd voted Tuesday night to support studying possible development of a wind farm on Mollyockett Mountain.

The Wind Power Committee, chaired by Selectman Mark Silber, and representatives from Kean Project Engineering Inc. of Turner answered questions from about 40 residents.

The meeting was called to gauge the community's attitude toward a possible wind power installation. Silber pointed out that if there is significant opposition to the project, there is no point in the committee and Kean investing more effort and money into the study.

After the discussion, all but one attendee voted in favor of the committee continuing its study of the project. Since the site under study is on town-owned, tax-acquired property, no action can be taken without a formal town meeting, Silber said.

Kean President Kirk Nadeau stressed that his company was interested in a project that has wide community support and would not proceed if there were opposition from residents close enough to see and hear the turbines. He said he is hoping that at least 50 percent and possibly 100 percent of the funds would come from Maine investors.

Questions centered on financing, expected revenue, noise and visual impact.

The project, consisting of three wind turbines with a maximum combined output of 4.9 megawatts, is expected to cost about $8 million and require $1.6 million in cash with the remainder financed.

The base plan is for Kean to do the feasibility study, design, build, operate and maintain the wind farm. Financing and ownership can be through a newly formed limited liability corporation, town ownership or several other options. With available incentives, the payback is expected to be five to seven years.

Depending on the option approved by the town, the town would receive rent, royalties or taxes. If a private company owns the turbines, the taxes would reduce the Sumner tax rate by more than $1 per $1,000 of assessed property.

Nadeau said the noise from the turbines at the nearest home would be less than the normal background noise in a rural community such as Sumner. Noise decreases rapidly with distance from the source, so few, if any residents, should hear the turbines in their homes, he said.

He said that the power generated by the turbines could be greatly increased by placing them on top of the mountain. However, to reduce their visual impact, the hubs will be located below the ridgeline with only the thin blades rising above it. There will be one red strobe light mounted on the center hub.

Silber said he was pleased with the turnout, and the committee will continue studying the project.

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