The Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) has rejected an appeal by Boston-based First Wind, thus upholding a 2013 decision by the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to deny a permit for the proposed Bowers Mountain wind project. Now the developer must consider whether to issue a new appeal to Maine's Supreme Court.
‘We're determining our next steps at this time,’ says John Lamontagne, a First Wind spokesperson. ‘We're disappointed in the decision.’
This was First Wind's third attempt to win approval for Bowers Mountain, a 16-turbine, 48 MW project proposed in Carroll Plantation, Maine. According to Lamontagne, First Wind has been developing the project for about five years. The developer initially proposed it to the now-defunct Maine Land Use Regulatory Commission, which rejected the project in 2012.
Lamontagne says the primary concerns raised by the project revolve around visual impacts. However, he maintains that First Wind made several revisions in 2012, including the following:
– Reduced the number of turbines from 27 to 16;
– Reconfigured turbine locations in response to feedback from the original project;
– Moved turbines farther away from nearby lakes;
– Proposed more-efficient turbines, increasing generating capacity by 30% per turbine; and
– Planned to feature aviation lighting that is radar controlled, so as to reduce the effects of nighttime lighting.
Nonetheless, the DEP did not approve the modified Bowers project proposal last year, and First Wind appealed. Although the developer is disappointed by the BEP's most recent rejection, one local conservation group has welcomed the ruling.
"We are very pleased with this decision, but not surprised," says Gary Campbell, president of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, in a statement. "This project would have seriously damaged the scenic value of nine lakes that the State of Maine has designated as significant scenic resources, lakes that the legislature specifically shielded from wind projects."
"We've been fighting to protect this remarkable network of scenic lakes for four years now," Campbell adds. "First Wind claims to be doing what's best for Maine, but these endless hearings cost the taxpayers a lot of money. Three strikes and you're supposed to be out. I hope this time the developer gets the message [and] leaves this treasured area alone."