Wind Warriors will remember the circus that was Eolian Renewables.
Eolian was a zero-experience fly by night barnstorming rent seeking outfit, led by ringleader and chief snake oil salesman Jack Kenworthy.
The tenacious towns of Orland and Frankfort finally sent the would-be wind developer scurrying away, but it took several divisive years - and a scorched earth - for the guy to get the message and finally end the nightmare.
Well Jack Kenworthy is back in Maine. Eolian is now a new Delaware shell LLC called Walden Green Energy, and last year they won a few solar bids in the latest Maine RPS RFP. His new snake oil: solar. His new target: Lovell.
Last month, after two years of behind the scenes discussion with town officials, Walden dropped off a 600 page application at the Maine DEP and at Lovell Town Hall. Walden wants to build a 180 acre, 90,000 panel, 35 MW grid scale solar "farm" in Lovell, which sits in the shadow of the White Mountains in Western Oxford County. Lovell is home to one of Maine's most picturesque and pristine water bodies: Kezar Lake. It is also home to some of the mountain best scenic vistas in Maine. Vistas that will be horribly fouled by the 10,000 tree clearcut and the sprawling solar arrays.
You know the formula. Exparte' communications, payola, save the planet promises, sprinkling community benefit fairy dust around town, scholarships, cash, a new fire truck...
Until the application recently hit town hall, nobody knew this was in the works. Nobody, that is, except the dozen or so landowners who'd already signed on the dotted line to lease their acreage and sell out their town for a few sheckels. Some of these landowners happen to be family of selectmen...you know the drill.
The locals have quickly formed a group called Our Eden Association. They tried to get smart in a hurry over the holidays, before the application is "accepted as complete." Of course their summer folks are gone. They immediately called for a solar moratorium, but the Planning Board voted it down just before Christmas. Why? The affable and fast talking baby faced Kenworthy convinced them that their telecommunications ordinance was perfectly adequate zoning for an industrial solar project more than double the size of Maine Mall with all its buildings and asphalt. He had the planning board eating out of his hand.
Hearing community outrage, the selectmen have just asked for a January 25 "Special Town Meeting" where a moratorium can be discussed and voted. Meanwhile Our Eden is scrambling to educate the 1100 voters in town about the potential for this green project to forever hijack, dominate and transform the character of their lovely community. Last night was the "science fair" Public (Dis) Informational Meeting that the DEP requires. Many residents are still charmed by Kenworthy and his promises, but Our Eden is making headway with time running short.
If they lose the moratorium vote on January 25, the application will soon be accepted as complete, and they will almost certainly be forced to approve a massive project that has no business being approved -- all because there is no solar zoning and some people love the cash and the planet saving.
Our Eden is not anti-solar. They actually want an ordinance that allows and encourages residential and mid scale solar installations, like on a school roof, etc. But Lovell is no place for a major industrial project, so they want to write appropriate zoning. There is boilerplate model ordinance language out there, and many unwitting towns have cut/pasted that language, which was written by a collaboration of NRCM, Audubon, and the lobbying group Maine Renewable Energy Association. That model language is inadequate, but there are many good protective solar ordinances out there, just like the hundred or so protective wind ordinances that Maine towns wrote in response to the Wind Rush.
Please look up a Facebook page and feel free to jump in. Let them know how this plays out if they don't protect their town. Offer them your knowledge and support, and do it respectfully.
The Facebook page is simply called "Kezar Lake" and for years it has been a page where folks posted photos of sunsets and eagles. It is now a town square where "the solar farm" is a hot topic. There are trolls. This is a classic "Emperor's New Clothes" story and it's happening fast.
If you can, please jump in and say what you can to point out the naked emperor, so these folks know to do the right thing on January 25: Issue a moratorium, then wrote a good protective ordinance.