January/February 2008

By Ramona du Houx

On top of the Stetson Mountain ridge, one of Maine’s tallest peeks, the wind swoops up its steep sides generating energy that will soon be harnessed.

The UPC Wind Power Project on Stetson Mountain in northern Washington County became the first-ever Tax Increment Financing (TIF) project for an unorganized territory in Maine. Construction of the facility will begin this winter now that the Land Use Regulation Commission has approved the project.

Although the TIF program has been utilized extensively by municipalities throughout the state, only county governments can establish a TIF in an unorganized territory; until now, it had never been done.

“This is great news for not only Washington County but the entire state,” said Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) Commissioner John Richardson. “The construction of the project will create new jobs for the region and the energy generated will provide over 27,000 homes with clean, green electricity. The many people involved with making this happen are to be congratulated.”

Washington County Commissioner Kevin Shorey worked closely with UPC Wind, other local officials and the DECD on the application for the TIF.

“This historic action by the State of Maine represents a major milestone for the Stetson Wind Project, as the TIF revenues will provide the necessary foundation to ensure the viability of the project,” said Matt Kearns, UPC Wind’s project manager. “We also appreciate the leadership shown by Washington County, which has embraced the many benefits of this project, including the potential jobs and revenue that it will bring to the region.”

Tax increment financing is a DECD program that guides and encourages local economic development activity. It is a tool that permits a municipality, or as in this case a county, to participate in local project financing by using some or all of the new property taxes from a capital investment within a designated geographic district. The county has the option of using the incremental taxes to retire bonds it has issued for the project, compensate a developer or business for development project costs, or fund eligible community economic development activities.

The Stetson Wind Project will consist of the construction and operation of 38 state-of-the-art GE 1.5 megawatt wind turbines, considered to be the most reliable in the wind industry. The project will produce approximately 150 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually and will emit no pollutants. To produce the equivalent amount of power using conventional sources of electricity, such as oil or gas, over 100,000 metric tons of pollutants would be emitted.

The Stetson Mountain location has no residential properties closer than 2,500 feet, and the construction will have a minimal environmental impact as there are existing roads previously used for logging.

The Stetson Project in combination with UPC Wind’s Mars Hill facility will generate enough clean energy to power approximately 45,000 New England homes.

UPC Wind is an American-owned company based in Newton, Massachusetts. UPC is also the developer of the Mars Hill wind farm in Aroostook County. The Stetson wind farm is slated to be New England’s largest.