ROXBURY — The Record Hill Wind LLC project on Roxbury hills took a giant step forward on Monday when the U.S. Department of Energy finalized its $102 million loan guarantee to the Maine company.
The $120 million Record Hill wind project consists of 22 turbines and a transmission line upgrade to interconnect with Central Maine Power Co.
“It means we can move forward and complete construction,” Angus King, Independence Wind LLC co-principal and former Maine governor, said Tuesday morning in Brunswick.
The other principal is Robert Gardiner, the former president of Maine Public Broadcasting.
“It's been a long time coming,” King said.
In the four and a half years it took to reach this stage, King said he and Gardiner held about 40 public meetings in Roxbury, and meetings with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection for permitting.
And then there were meetings with the department's Board of Environmental Protection when project opponents appealed the DEP decision. That went all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which unanimously upheld the BEP decision in March.
Construction then resumed in April.
“It's wonderful to finally be in the completion stages of a project that's gone on that long,” Gardiner said Tuesday.
“We've been under construction for all of this construction season and making great progress, so actually this loan sort of finishes the financial side, but we will be going ahead with the construction side.”
King and Gardiner said the $102 million is a loan and not a grant. Repayment starts when the project goes online, which is expected to be in November or December.
“This is a loan guarantee,” King said. “This is money that has to be paid back. This isn't a grant.”
“What that effectively gives us is an advantage on the interest rate and that makes the financing a little easier, because when you're borrowing $100 million over 20 years, a little bit of improvement in the percentage rate makes a huge difference in the whole cost of things,” Gardiner said.
Steven Chu, U.S. Energy Secretary, said Monday that the loan guarantee and an investment by the Yale University Endowment will support the 50.6 megawatt wind power plant, an 8-mile transmission line and associated interconnection equipment near Roxbury.
Developed and managed by Wagner Wind Energy I LLC of New Hampshire and Independence Wind, Record Hill “will provide sustainable power to the state while funding 200 construction jobs,” Chu said.
“This innovative project creates jobs in Maine while boosting domestic wind generation in order to achieve the administration's goal of doubling clean energy produced in America by 2005,” he said.
“Clean energy is a major driver of American competitiveness, and investments like these are essential to secure our position as global leader.”
Wagner Wind Energy I is a subsidiary of Wagner Forest Management Ltd. of Lyme, N.H., which owns the land on which the project is being built.
Chu said the turbines will be installed with innovative Turbine Load Control technology, a system of sensors and processing software that allows the turbines to continue to generate electricity under turbulent conditions rather than be shut down completely.
TLC, he said, “is also expected to reduce wear-and-tear on the turbines, reduce operation and management costs and preserve the lifetime of the turbine components."
Record Hill wind's turbines were built by Siemens of Germany in Denmark and are being shipped from there to Searsport, where they will be trucked to each turbine site starting Friday, Aug. 19.
The nacelles, which are the structures atop a wind turbine tower that hold the electricity generating components, and the hubs and blades came from Denmark as well, Gardiner said.
The tower sections were made in Vietnam.
Each turbine cost about $3 million, King said.
“The turbines are manufactured in Europe because that's where the biggest turbine market is, and the tower sections are made in Asia, because that's where the new efficient steel mills are,” Gardiner said.
Since April, more than 150 employees of several Maine contractors have been working at the turbine sites, preparing them for the turbines.
“We're looking forward to starting to generate some local electricity,” Gardiner said.
“I think that people in Roxbury have recognized that this is coming and I believe they hope that the opponents' worst fears won't be realized, and I'm confident that their worst fears won't be realized and confident they won't be a problem for neighbors of this project.”