Kibby Wind adds to Maine’s reputation as a wind-power generator

Photos and Article by Ramona du Houx- January 3rd, 2010 

altLast fall under a 410-foot wind turbine, over 250 people gathered at Kibby Mountain to celebrate the start-up of TransCanada’s $320-million Kibby Wind Power Project.
Plans for an expansion to Kibby’s 44-windmill project, by adding 15 more turbines on nearby Sisk Mountain, were also unveiled.

“It was a long and winding road to get here,” said Governor John Baldacci who spoke at the celebration. “This is an exciting step for Maine. Already, the Kibby Wind Project has spent $78 million right here in the state on material, labor, and other services. More than $6 million of that amount has been spent here in Franklin County. This is a huge investment of $320 million and another $100 million with the expansion project.”

Three hundred people, 90 percent of whom are Mainers, were employed during the summer to erect 22 wind turbines. Maine contractors like Reed & Reed, Larkin Enterprises, Ltd., and others were hired because of the experience they now have in wind-power development.

“The second 22 windmills in the project, on nearby Kibby Ridge, are scheduled for completion in late summer or early fall of next year,” said Corey Goulet, vice president of energy projects for TransCanada Energy, Ltd. “When all 44 wind turbines are operational, the Kibby project will provide power for 50,000 homes and become New England’s largest wind-power project.”

When all the turbines are online, there will be a total of 132 megawatts of installed electrical capacity, which will eliminate the use of 201,470 tons of CO2 a year. That’s the equivalent of 954 railroad cars worth of coal and 425,048 barrels of consumed oil.

“Importantly, the Kibby project solidifies Maine’s reputation as the leader in wind-power generation in New England,” said the governor. “This project represents a great step forward in Maine as we move aggressively to end our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels and to create jobs by building our renewable-energy sector right here in Maine.”

John Kerry of the Governor’s Office of Energy Independence and Security said, “This project shows a practical example of what can be done, with good planning and the coordination of working with Maine companies that have become experts in wind development. It fulfills the energy economic development and environmental polices that we have developed for a comprehensive plan for the state. It’s great for the local economy, and for Maine’s long-term sustainable-energy future.”

Over 250 people gathered to celebrate the start-up of TransCanada’s $320-million Kibby Wind Power Project.
Over 250 people gathered to celebrate the start-up of TransCanada’s $320-million Kibby Wind Power Project. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The proposed expansion project on Sisk Mountain would be located just west of the Kibby ridge and mountain project. According to plans, the 15 turbines would be installed near the Canadian border and run south along the summit. TransCanada Energy, Ltd. officials said the expansion would utilize Kibby’s road upgrades, the newly constructed 27-mile transmission line and operation buildings.

After receiving a permit from the state’s Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) in August, TransCanada installed a meteorological tower to measure wind and collect other data on Sisk Mountain.

Most of the area proposed for the expansion lies in an “expedited” area designated by the state for wind-power construction. Establishing Maine as a wind-energy exporter has been a priority of the Baldacci Administration. In 2008, working with the Legislature, the governor streamlined the regulatory process for windmill projects. Now all that is required is one all-inclusive application submitted to LURC, if the site is in an expedited area.

If approved by LURC, construction could begin as early as the autumn of 2010 and continue into the summer of 2011. That’s two more summers of hundreds of Maine workers atop mountains in northern Franklin County. Once completed, the 59 turbines would produce 3 megawatts, enough to meet the electricity needs of 64,000 households.

“The University of Maine was awarded a $8-million federal grant to develop the technology to deploy two offshore turbines in the Gulf of Maine. Maine was the only grant recipient for offshore wind development. Businesses we met in Europe on the trade mission will be in Maine to explore new wind-power possibilities. Companies are coming here, because we have the expertise in wind-power development,” said the governor. “And then there is a tremendous benefit these companies bring to local economic development.”

Eustis and Stratton have been promised a community benefits package by TransCanada totaling $1,000 per megawatt produced each year by the turbines, which could mean up to $132,000 annually.

Eustis Selectman Jane Wilkinson said, “The funds will go towards community projects.”

Franklin County is expecting $4 million over the 20-year life span of the turbines. The Unorganized Territories will earn $9 million over the same period. As part of the agreement with TransCanada, the money will be dedicated to economic development projects.

“The economic development benefit here is huge,” said Alison Hagerstrom, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corporation. “It will put Franklin County on the map.”

Maine already produces the most wind energy in New England, with wind farms on Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain, both owned by FirstWind of Newton, Mass. FirstWind has plans to continue to build other wind farms in the state.

“There will be wave after wave of wind-power projects coming to Maine, because they will see what we can do and will come here because of it,” said the governor.