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Horizon 'close' to going ahead with huge Maine wind farm

EDP-owned US wind developer Horizon is close to giving the go-ahead for a huge project in Maine, Governor John Baldacci tells Recharge.

Baldacci was speaking in Spain during a trip to Europe to promote deals with wind developers and equipment manufacturers.

He held meetings in Madrid with companies including EDP, Iberdrola, Acciona and Gamesa, and visited Iberdrola’s CORE control centre in Toledo before moving on to Zaragoza.

Officials travelling with Baldacci reveal that the state has found a solution to grid constraints, allowing Horizon to go ahead with the 800-megawatt (MW) Aroostook project in northern Maine, which will be one of the biggest in eastern US.

“We are very, very hopeful,” says Baldacci, adding that EDP is likely to be the first European developer to make a major investment in the state’s wind sector.

Horizon’s plans in Maine are centred on sites in Eastern Aroostook County, where the company could install up to 400 turbines.

The company has been working through a subsidiary, Aroostook Wind Energy — a joint venture with Linekin Bay Energy — acquiring land leases and options, and taking wind measurements at a series of locations. The company has already acquired a significant number of leases and options in the area.

However, the project suffered a blow in February when a proposed solution to grid restrictions fell through after Horizon declined to invest in a trans­mission project proposed by Iberdrola-owned Central Maine Power that would have linked northern Maine to the New England power grid. The problem has deterred Horizon from making a formal application for the project.

Horizon will say only that talks with local authorities and companies are continuing, but Linekin Bay Energy president Christian Herter tells Recharge a solution has been found through sharing the cost of a new transmission line with other developers interested in projects in Maine.

“Hopefully within a week or so, we should be in a position to make an announcement and put in the applications for the first stage of the project,” he adds.

Baldacci also says the state is planning to change local regulations to allow Spanish renewables giant Iberdrola Renovables to invest in wind farms there.

Iberdrola is unable to invest in generation because of the transmission and distribution assets it owns in the state through Central Maine Power; however, Baldacci says legislation being proposed in the state legislature would change the rules for renewable generation.

He says Maine has introduced a simplified permissions system for wind farms, based on a number of designated zones for wind farm development. This means that once the application is made, construction could be under way in “less than a year”.

“We have zones defined where there is expedited permitting,” the governor says. “By getting together with the environmental community and forging an alliance, we have created areas where you can just go in and develop, instead of fighting.”

He says the state has three gigawatts in potential for new onshore wind farms.

It also hopes to attract investment from a major company for new turbine-manufacturing plants for the onshore and offshore markets, with Baldacci describing turbine giant Gamesa as “very interested”.

“At the moment, it’s very difficult to bring in turbines from outside because of our highway infrastructure,” he says, “and we think we could do a lot more of this, both in terms of manufacturing blades and possibly housing a construction centre for all of New England.”