First Wind, an independent U.S. based renewable energy company, recently made its first payment to Oakfield, Maine, 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, early construction on the 148 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.
“First Wind is committed to building partnerships in our project communities, and we’ve had a great experience working with the town of Oakfield. It is exciting to see the early construction progress at Oakfield and we are looking forward to seeing the activity increase in the coming months,” says Paul Gaynor, First Wind CEO.
Throughout the development and planning phases, First Wind 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 will be used for tax relief for town residents. The town has other plans for future uses of funds.
“From the beginning, we’ve wanted to ensure that Oakfield residents see the real benefits of this project. With the tax relief we’re providing, homeowners in town are feeling the benefits in a real way,” says Dave Morris, Oakfield town manager. First Wind has been good to work with, keeping Oakfield involved in the development process and being receptive to local input. We are eager to continue this collaboration and are looking forward to the future of this project.”
First proposed in 2008, the Oakfield Wind project received unanimous approval from the Maine DEP in January of 2012. In 2011, Oakfield residents voted 81-21 to approve the tax and community benefit agreement. The power 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.