RUMFORD – Wind power advocates from across Maine talked about economic and environmental impact and turbine noise during a panel forum Thursday night at Black Mountain Ski Lodge.

Moderator Patti Duguay made it clear from the start that wind power projects proposed for Rumford and Roxbury would not be discussed by the audience of more than 120 people.

Andy Shepard of Maine Winter Sports Center, which owns the Rumford ski area and hosted the event, set a pro-wind power tone in his introduction. Panelist Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine cemented the stance.

“We strongly support wind power in Maine because it is a clean energy and it will help to address climate change,” he said.

“It will also help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, ” he said. “Fifteen percent of our power comes from coal-powered plants in New England. Our dependence on fossil fuels is not sustainable.”

Maine, he said, needs better energy solutions on a large scale, such as wind power can provide.

Other panelists included Pat DeFillipp of Reed and Reed Inc., a growing wind-power construction company; Travis Kearney, general manager of Big Rock Ski Area of Mars Hill; Gary McGrane, a Franklin County commissioner; and Jim Shaw, a Mars Hill Realtor and lifelong resident of Mars Hill.

DeFillipp addressed the jobs aspect behind wind projects, while McGrane covered tax and economic benefits.

“I think it’s just the beginning of a big industry in the state and New England and we want to be involved,” DeFillipp said.

“Wind power is a source of clean power. It creates both construction as well as permanent jobs, and it’s a great investment in Maine at a time when the economy is shrinking.”

Kearney and Shaw, who live near the Mars Hill wind farm, addressed noise and visual issues associated with wind turbines.

“My family lives 3,000 feet from the turbines on the east side of the mountain,” Kearney said. “There’s no doubt we do hear noise, but we don’t focus on it.”

Most of the noise, he said, can only be heard during days with heavy cloud cover.

Shaw owns My Sunset Cabins, rental log cabins he built in anticipation of the wind farm. He outlined life in Mars Hill before, during and after the project and its lack of impact on area real estate sales.

As for noise, Shaw said that on some days, “It sounds like a low-flying jet aircraft or a waterfall. You put these big, beautiful 100-foot blades up there and you have to hear something.”

For Jim Kenney of Upton, it was a learning experience.

“We were concerned about noise issues because we’ve been to Mars Hill a couple of times,” Kenney said. “So it was refreshing to hear these things tonight from people who live there.”

Longtime Sumner Selectman Mark Silber said he didn’t learn much. He is working to get wind power into the Hartford, Buckfield and Sumner area, he said.

“It was good to hear the proponents and voices from their perspective,” he said. “I wish I would have learned more, but I didn’t. But, I can’t say that it wasn’t valuable.”

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