MARS HILL (AP) – A wind power company hopes to start generating energy from upward of 33 turbines on 1,748-foot Mars Hill Mountain by fall 2004.

The $55 million Mars Hill Mountain project would help Maine become less dependent on foreign energy and provide an environmentally friendly power source, Gov. John Baldacci said while announcing the project Saturday.

If power use remains the same, the turbines would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 122,000 tons, the equivalent of removing 17,000 cars from Maine’s roads.

The 20-acre project is being developed by Evergreen Wind Power LLC, a Bangor-based subsidiary of Massachusetts-based UPC Wind Partners.

UPC Wind Partners is an extension of UPC Group, described as one of Europe’s largest and most successful wind park developers.

Peter Gish, managing director of UPC Wind Partners, said the wind power would fill a gap in energy needs in the area. The power generated would likely be sold and used locally, he said.

Baldacci said the project would also promote economic development. It could produce $3 million in local property taxes for over 20 years.

At Saturday’s news conference, an official from the Natural Resources Council of Maine stopped short of endorsing the project because details have not been made available and environmental permit applications have yet to be filed.

But Sue Jones, the council’s energy project director, said the organization supports the development of wind power in Maine, adding that the developer has excellent credentials.

Wendell and Marie Pierce, along with their son, own about three-quarters of the land proposed for the project.

They said the turbines are likely to be less invasive than some of the half dozen television, cellular and radio towers already on the mountain.

Tammie Pike, a local resident, said she is not making a judgment until she sees how the windmills would affect the aesthetics of the mountain and whether they would have any substantial impact on the ecosystem.

“We don’t want to make our mountain ugly,” she said.

The project still needs to go through the state permitting process, but if all goes as planned, construction could start next summer and the turbines could start generating power in the fall.

The wind field would have the capacity to produce 50 megawatts of power in a state that uses between 1,800 to 2,100 megawatts each year, according to a state official.

AP-ES-07-21-03 0216EDT

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