ROXBURY — Developers of the Record Hill LLC wind project moved a major step closer to resuming construction late Thursday afternoon when the U.S. Department of Energy issued a conditional commitment for a loan guarantee.
The commitment, which covers a portion of the cost of building the estimated $125 million project, is still subject to final agency reviews, Robert Gardiner, Independence Wind LLC president, said Thursday in Cumberland Foreside.
“We're thrilled,” Gardiner said of he and the other project principal, former Maine Gov. Angus King of Brunswick.
“We've been a long time in the process with them. They're extremely thorough and we've been doing this for months and months."
"It's very gratifying to see it come to such a good outcome,” Gardiner said.
As part of the financing commitment, the Yale University Endowment will be a major sponsor of the project, working with Maine-based Independence Wind and Wagner Wind Energy I LLC of Lyme, N.H., to finish the project.
“Yale is a very powerful institution and adding their credibility to the project is really excellent, and that credibility, I think, made a great deal of difference to the DOE in their decision,” Gardiner said.
“We are extremely pleased about this successful partnership with Independence Wind and Yale,” Tom Colgan, president of Wagner Wind Energy I LLC, said Thursday in Lyme.
“We look forward to continuing to work on innovative ways to sustainably utilize natural resources and provide economic benefits to Maine communities.”
The 22-turbine project planned for the ridgeline that connects Partridge Peak, Record Hill and Flathead Mountain, was approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in late August 2009.
The final OK came after a nine-month process involving numerous public meetings and the submission of voluminous environmental studies, Gardiner said.
Opponents of the project, Concerned Citizens of Roxbury, then appealed to the Board of Environmental Protection, which upheld the DEP approval last March.
Undeterred, the group and other appellants then took the case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which Gardiner said heard arguments on the case in January. He said he expects a decision any day now.
Preparatory work began in August 2009 and continued until early 2010 when construction was suspended.
However, it wasn't restarted last year due to the court case and request for the federal loan guarantee.
“We proved (in Aug. 2009 to DEP) that we had financial capability, but (the BEP) said before you begin construction, you're going to have to show us your actual financing plans, show us the money,” Gardiner said.
“The BEP reviewed the appeal of (the DEP) commissioner's decision and they added this stipulation and we took that as acceptable. And so, that is where it got added, about a year ago, and then their decision was appealed to the state Supreme Court, and we're a year later and expecting a decision literally any day now.”
Gardiner said that in addition to increased tax revenue and job creation, Record Hill Wind will be providing free electricity to all households within the town of Roxbury — a benefit the developers believe is a first-in-the-nation idea.
“You don't have to be a legal resident of Roxbury, because there are a lot of camps in Roxbury that are owned by people who are not legal residents of Roxbury,” Gardiner said.
The project has an estimated electrical output of 122.1 million kWh per year, the equivalent of the electricity used by approximately 20,000 typical Maine households.
"We're delighted that the exhaustive review done by the DOE’s Loan Programs Office has resulted in this step toward making the project a reality," Gardiner said.
"And having a world-class financial partner like the Yale endowment involved brings real financial depth and expertise to the table as well."