First Wind, an independent U.S.-based renewable energy company, announced recently that it has made the first payment to the town of Oakfield in the amount of $600,000 as part of the community benefit agreement. Situated about 2.5 miles from the center of Oakfield in Aroostook County, Maine, early construction on the 148 megawatt (MW) project began in late 2013. The Oakfield project will provide $12 million in community benefit payments over the next 20 years. In addition to the community benefit payments, First Wind is also scheduled to make about $15 million in tax payments over the next 20 years.
Throughout the development and planning phases, First Wind has worked very closely with the town and its Windpower Review Committee to solicit significant community input in designing the project and establishing a community benefit partnership. As part of the local review process, First Wind made a number of commitments to the town and incorporated those commitments into its original Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) application.
Ninety percent of the funds from this first payment from First Wind to the town will be used for tax relief for town residents. The town has other plans for future uses of funds.
First proposed in 2008, the Oakfield Wind project received unanimous approval from the Maine DEP in January of 2012. In 2011, town of Oakfield residents voted 81-21 to approve the tax and community benefit agreement. The power that will be generated by the Oakfield Wind project is contracted to be sold to Massachusetts customers of four utilities as part of a 15-year contract, and will generate enough clean energy at cost-competitive rates to power about 50,000 homes.
Major construction of the project is expected to start later this year, with a completion and generation date predicted for 2015. Vestas will supply the 48 V112 turbines with a capacity of 3.075 MW each to the Maine project.
Other communities along the planned power line or “generator lead”, which will connect the wind project to the New England electrical grid, will also receive tax revenues from the project.
First Wind has invested $600 million in wind projects in Maine. The company currently has five operational wind projects in Maine including the 42 MW Mars Hill Wind project in Aroostook County, the 83 MW Stetson Wind I and II projects in Washington County, the 60 MW Rollins Wind project in Penobscot County, and the 34 MW Bull Hill Wind project in Hancock County. These facilities have the capacity to generate 219 MW, enough to supply clean power for the equivalent of more than 95,000 households.