A wind power development firm behind a proposal that state officials think will pose a threat to birds is offering to conserve 5,800 acres of woods and wetlands in Hancock and Washington counties as wildlife habitat.
Longroad Energy, which has applied to the state Department of Environmental Protection for approval to erect 22 turbines in Eastbrook and Osborn in Hancock County, has the support of the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in the mitigation proposal, which in effect would serve as compensation for the adverse impact the turbines would have on birds.
In 2015, the DIF&W publicly opposed the Weaver Wind project, which at the time was being proposed by the now-defunct SunEdison renewable energy firm. Officials with DIF&W noted at the time that the impact on birds of the existing Bull Hill Wind farm nearby in Township 16 already was significant and that erecting more turbines a few miles away “will represent significant adverse cumulative impact to migrating birds.”
At the time, wildlife officials said that mortality studies suggested that over a period of several months, a dozen or more birds or bats are killed by each of the 19 Bull Hill Wind turbines.
The Weaver Wind project now is being proposed by Longroad Energy and has been resubmitted to the state for approval. Earlier this month, wildlife officials said they still have concerns about how the project would affect birds but that they were not sure that reducing or temporarily halting the use of the nearly 600-foot tall turbines during peak migration periods would have any meaningful effect on bird mortality rates.
Instead, state officials are considering whether conserving nearby land as wildlife habitat might be considered adequate mitigation for the impact the turbines might have on birds.
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Gov. Mills has charged Hannah Pingree, director of the state’s first Office of Innovation and the Future, with assembling a Climate Council to tackle the complexity of taking on climate change in Maine. This very positive step moves us closer to assembling a coordinated plan that looks at how we generate and consume energy. We must update the report of the 2008 Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power Development; the report on Maine’s Climate Future, and other statewide efforts that identify a path forward.
What have we learned these past dozen-plus years? How has renewable-energy technology changed? How have recommendations from these reports been enacted, ignored or modified? What recommendations are coming from leading conservation organizations, university programs and renewable-energy businesses around development of offshore wind and tidal energy, expansion of solar power, deployment of battery technology and distributed electricity generation? The supposedly “low-hanging fruit” of energy efficiency still remains just out of reach for many among us. We must consider the growth in these fields as we chart a course for the future.....................................
Alexander Buck Jr. is president of Horizon Foundation, Inc., in Portland.
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