MARS HILL (AP) – New England’s largest wind farm is becoming something of a tourist attraction.

More than 40 people last weekend joined an environmental group’s excursion to this northern Maine town to get a close-up view of the 28-unit wind farm on a mountain just west of the state’s border with Canada.

The weather was sunny with a steady wind blowing as the group toured the ridgeline, where 260-foot-tall turbines are topped by 115-foot blades. At full capacity, they are designed to crank out the equivalent power needs of 45,000 average Maine homes.

Some of those who joined the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s trip on Saturday hiked up Mars Hill Mountain, while others rode. The trip included a meeting with officials from UPC Wind Management of Newton, Mass., the developer, and discussions with town officials and business owners about the impact of the green-power project.

The group also met with engineering contractor Reed & Reed.

The council visit wasn’t the first organized tour of the site, and probably won’t be the last. The council said another other trip to Mars Hill will be scheduled during fall foliage season.

Town Manager Ray Mersereau said Tuesday that several schools have sent busloads of students to the site and more trips are planned.

“I’ve had e-mails and communications from schools downstate” expressing interest in visiting the project, said Mersereau.

The Mars Hill wind farm started generating power in January. The state Land Use Regulation Commission, whose members have also visited the site, is now considering applications for three additional wind power projects in Maine.

The Natural Resources Council and Maine Audubon announced earlier this month said they are endorsing UPC’s plan for an even larger wind farm, a $100 million project that calls for 38 turbines on Stetson Mountain in Washington County.

The two environmental groups also support TransCanada’s proposal to place 44 turbines atop Kibby Mountain in northern Franklin County. Audubon opposes and NRCM supports Maine Mountain Power LLC’s proposal for 18 turbines on Black Nubble Mountain in western Maine.

AP-ES-07-31-07 1709EDT


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