CARTHAGE — Most comments made at Thursday night's informational meeting on a proposed wind farm were critical of the potential development.
It was Patriot Renewables LLC's chance to explain what they plan and what the benefits might be for the town if 13, two-megawatt wind turbines are built on Saddleback Mountain Ridge.
Because the planned site is within visual and sometimes sound distance of many living in neighboring Wilton and Dixfield, some of the nearly 70 people who attended were from those two towns, as well.
At least one person attended from Highland Plantation in Somerset County where another wind project is in the works.
“This mountain is unique. If the noise is too loud, what will you do?” asked former Carthage Selectman Bill Houghton, who helped circulate a petition this month calling for a wind farm moratorium. He said the petition had at least 150 signatures.
An unidentified woman from Dixfield said her home is between the proposed Carthage development and a similar plan in Dixfield. She said the flight path for birds comes through that area.
“There's a wind tunnel there,” she said. “All of a sudden there's no flight path. The flight path goes right up Route 2 and up Saddleback Mountain. I want to see some data.”
Roxbury resident Steve Thurston was concerned that some people living one or two miles from a turbine could suffer health effects.
“Maine's noise regulations are not adequate,” he said.
But Carthage resident Elwin Brown took issue with noise complaints.
“Those snowmobiles are screaming and you don't complain about that,” he said.
East Dixfield resident Richard Hall said he had visited wind farms in several areas in the United States and Canada.
“People who are concerned about noise are wasting their time. I live on Route 2 and truck noise is much, much greater. I wouldn't mind having a wind turbine 1,000 feet from my house,” he said.
Others were concerned that the tops of mountains would be destroyed.
Andy Novey, project developer for the proposed Carthage and Woodstock wind projects, said the tentative plan is to build 13 turbines on private property for which they have a purchase option. If the title on an adjacent 320 acres is cleared to show that it is owned by the town, another four turbines would be built, bringing the total number of megawatt production to 34.
The access road to the turbines would be from the Winter Hill Road in South Carthage. He said the power transmission lines would be built underground to meet a substation.
The wind towers with the blades extended would be just over 400 feet high, and would run on a three-mile ridgeline. The access road would be 24 feet wide, and the ridgeline roads would be 32 feet wide. Both widths would be reduced to 12 feet wide with vegetation. About 800 acres would become conservation easements, he said.
The town would receive about $4,000 a year for each turbine on private property, and about $313,000 a year on a lease from town owned property.
“There are ways to shelter some of that money,” he said.
During construction, up to 100 people would be working. Once completed, three or four full-time people would be needed to maintain the turbines.
He said the closest house or camp not on the project lands is 3,000 feet from a turbine.
The company is working its way through the Maine Department of Environmental Protection permitting procedure. If the remaining environmental studies are completed on schedule, it should be ready for submission by the end of the summer, said Todd Presson, chief executive officer of the Quincy, Mass. firm.
If a moratorium is passed at a special town meeting set for 7 p.m. June 21, then he said the company will continue to move forward, but at a slower pace.
First Selectman Steve Brown said he's not sure what would happen if a moratorium is passed. He said the town has neither a comprehensive plan nor a Planning Board. He said he is checking with the town's attorney on what the next step would be.
Also at the meeting was Alison Hagerstrom, who introduced the Patriot Renewables team. She said she had been working with the company for more than a year.
“We support the wind projects because it diversifies our base in Franklin County,” she said.