August 26, 2011

Two dozen protest wind farm

NORRIDGEWOCK -- Willow Cordes-Eklund, 27, had one thing to do before reporting to jail on Thursday: join a protest against Maine industrial wind development projects.

The Minneapolis, Minn., native, who was arrested for blocking a tractor-trailer truck hauling a wind turbine blade in Chain of Ponds Township last summer, brought a large cloth sign that read, "Silly turbines, wind is for eagles."

About two dozen people from at least eight counties gathered for the demonstration at the intersection of U.S. Route 2 and Route 139.

The protesters stood on the sidewalk along the route traveled by trucks carrying massive turbine parts to the Record Hill Wind LLC project in the small Oxford County town of Roxbury.

The turbines on Thursday were delivered according to schedule before the protest began, according to state police, but one activist said the event was about educating people.

"It's all about education and awareness," Concord Township resident David Corrigan said. "I haven't yet met an honest person who supports industrial wind once they know all the facts."

No regrets

Thursday was selected for the protest because it's the day Cordes-Eklund, a member of the Earth First! movement, had to report to Franklin County Jail to start serving a 10-day sentence for failure to disperse.

In July 2010 she used a bicycle lock to chain herself by the neck to a tractor-trailer during a protest of the Kibby Mountain wind power project in Franklin County and was arrested after police had to cut the lock.

"I came today to show my support in the continued fight against the destruction of mountains in Maine," Cordes-Eklund said, a tattoo of a crow on her forearm.

"I don't live a life of regret," she said. But she added, "I do wish we didn't have to go through these extreme measures to have our voices heard."

Energy will flow to Maine

The $135 million Record Hill wind project will have 22 turbines and an eight-mile-long transmission line, which will connect with Central Maine Power Co.

The turbines, each worth more than $3 million, are built in Denmark by Siemens and shipped overseas to Searsport, said Rob Gardiner, one of the principals of Independence Wind LLC. Former Gov. Angus King is also a principal.

Yale University Endowment is a major sponsor of the project, working with Independence Wind, of Brunswick, and Wagner Wind Energy I LLC, of Lyme, N.H.

It's anticipated the turbines will be producing electricity for the equivalent of 20,000 typical Maine households by the end of fall.

"As long as they're not getting in the way, expressing their opinion is pretty routine," Gardiner said about people protesting. "This has happened on every wind project in Maine. It's an opportunity to make a statement."

He said the electricity will flow into the Central Maine Power grid, so the project will benefit Maine residents.

Though surplus Maine electricity spills into the New England power grid, for every hour a wind project generates electricity, "it is reducing electricity costs to the customer because it means a more expensive gas-generated plant is not running as heavily," Gardiner said.

"The cost to the customer is less. Every customer benefits," he added.

Environmental impact

People at the protest largely supported wind energy in general but opposed the turbines' environmental impact on remote areas of Maine. Several wind power projects are proposed for areas of Somerset County.

"They just don't belong on the mountaintops," said one activist, 72-year-old Dick Roberts, of Dixfield. Wearing a green felt hat with a feather in it, he said he has enjoyed hiking portions of the Appalachian Trail throughout his life.

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