AUGUSTA — Towers are beginning to take form as construction progresses at Maine's newest wind farm.
All of the tower sections have arrived by ship from Denmark and will be delivered over a matter of weeks to the site of the $76 million Bull Hill project in central Hancock County, about 18 miles northeast of Ellsworth.
The builder, First Wind, said 16 of the 19 turbine pads were built by last week. The first base section of a tower was set into place Friday and more are expected to take form in the weeks ahead. Wind blades and generators, shipped by rail from Colorado, are also expected to be attached to the towers in early July. The construction project involves about 200 jobs.
"Right now, we're on target for the project to be completed, operating and online by November," said First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne.
When completed, the 34-megawatt Bull Hill will bring First Wind's total capacity in Maine to 185 megawatts, or enough to supply the energy needs for 85,000 homes, according to First Wind, which has built four other projects in Maine and additional projects in northeastern and western states.
First Wind's other Maine wind farms include the Mars Hill in Aroostook County, Rollins Wind project in Penobscot County and the Stetson I and II projects in Washington County. TransCanada's Kibby Wind project in Franklin County, which generates enough power for about 50,000 homes, is the largest project in New England.
According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which was neutral on the Bull Hill project in comments filed with regulators, the project will avoid emissions of more than 45,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide.
In June, Massachusetts-based First Wind and Emera Inc. announced the closing of their transaction to jointly own and operate wind energy projects in the Northeast through a new company called Northeast Wind Partners. Emera, based in Nova Scotia, is the parent company of a number of electric utilities, including Bangor Hydro-Electric Co.
Challenges to the state Public Utilities Commission's approval of the Emera-First Wind joint venture transaction have been filed by Houlton Water Co., the state public advocate and industrial energy consumers, which claimed, among other issues, that the proposal would violate Maine's electricity restructuring law.
Still under regulatory review is a proposed 14-turbine wind farm atop Passadumkeag Ridge in Grand Falls Township, Penobscot County. The state Department of Environmental Protection has scheduled a second public meeting for July 12 in Greenbush to get feedback on its review of the 42-megawatt project, which is proposed by Quantum Utility Generation, an alternative energy company from Texas.
Some local residents and business owners have expressed reservations about the project, saying it could detract from the region's beauty and deter visitors from coming to local camps and lodges.
Meanwhile, efforts are continuing in Maine to develop offshore wind-power generation.
The Norwegian company Statoil North America has applied for permits to place as many as four test turbines on leased ocean grounds starting in 2016. Statoil held a series of open houses last week in Boothbay, Rockland and Portland.
The University of Maine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center had planned to deploy a one-third scale prototype wind turbine this summer off Monhegan Island. The launch is now rescheduled for next year, however, because the federal permits have not been filed.
Permits for the federally funded project have not yet been issued, but an environmental assessment has concluded the project would have no significant impact.