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Maine’s powerful to gather today as wind farm goes online

By Glenn Adams
Associated Press / October 16, 2009

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AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine will harness more wind power today when Governor John Baldacci helps start up the first half of the Kibby Mountain project in the state’s western mountains.

Baldacci will join other state and local government officials and builders of TransCanada’s project at the remote Franklin County site. The ceremony will mark the completion of the first 22 windmills and the start of their production of power, which will flow to Central Maine Power Co. and through its interconnections to the New England grid.

The second 22 windmills in the project, on Kibby Ridge, are scheduled for completion in late summer or early fall of next year, said Corey Goulet, vice president of energy projects for TransCanada. The portion of the project to be dedicated today will provide the equivalent average energy needs of 25,000 homes.

When all 44 windmills are completed, the Kibby Mountain windmills will provide twice that power and become New England’s largest wind power project. It has an overall cost of $320 million, said Goulet.

In addition to developing wind, hydro, gas-fired, and nuclear power facilities, TransCanada has gas transmission pipelines all over North America and is building an oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast.

Maine has major operating wind farms in Mars Hill and Stetson Mountain, both owned by FirstWind of Newton, Mass. Expansion of the Stetson project in eastern Maine is underway, and construction of a project near Rumford, in western Maine is also in progress.

State regulators have approved plans for FirstWind’s Rollins wind-power project in northern Maine, and several other projects are in earlier stages of planning. Studies into the potential to produce wind power off Maine’s coast are also underway.

The opening of the Kibby project today is occurring a day after US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced federal stimulus funding for three university-led wind energy research facilities, including one at the University of Maine, which plans to design and deploy two floating offshore turbine prototypes.

The two other recipients are the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Minnesota. Each of the three is to receive up to $8 million.

Baldacci, who led a wind-power trade mission to Europe this fall, said he hopes to see Maine become a “host for deep water innovation’’ in wind power.