As the turbines spin from the cold winter wind in Northern Maine, ratepayers and local residents are feeling the positive impact from the project.
When the project went online last October, Oakfield became the largest wind farm operating in New England. Located in Aroostook County, it is comprised of 48 turbines and can generate almost 150 megawatts of electricity — enough energy to power about 50,000 homes.
The project has provided a boost to the local economy. Construction began in December 2013 and included building new roads, an electrical collection system, and bases for the turbines. Nearly 900 employees — many of whom were local — participated over the course of the project. All told, the project took 390,000 work hours. At its peak, 200 workers were active on the project.
Full-time Oakfield residents now receive tax breaks and an annual check for about $2,000 a year — a benefit that will be in place for 20 years. With the average local property tax bill at $970, the majority of homeowners will have money left over.
The electricity generated from the turbines is transmitted along a 59-mile line to a substation in a nearby town. From there, local residents and businesses can access the power at a highly competitive rate. The new rates are expected to save Maine ratepayers millions of dollars in lower power bills.
SunEdison involved Oakfield town leaders from the design phase of the project onward so that not only would Oakfield residents benefit, but the community as a whole. The town will receive $14.7 million in tax revenues over 20 years, plus an additional $12 million in community benefit payments.
The money the town receives can be used for town projects and Oakfield residents will have a say in how they’d like to spend each year’s funds. Among other improvements, proposed projects include road reconstruction, new fire trucks, a more centrally located fire station, and a new salt shed.
Town Manager Dale Morris spoke to the Bangor Daily News about the project.
“The No. 1 revitalization has been to our Public Works department. We have invested well over $400,000 in new equipment. Without that infusion of tax dollars, the Public Works department would be different from the way it is today. It has revitalized and transformed that department.”
The town also was able to donate $15,000 to a veteran’s memorial using the fund.