Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Moody's assigns Ba3 to Northeast Wind Capital's senior secured debt; outlook stable

Approximately $385 Million of Debt Securities Affected 

New York, August 05, 2013 -- Moody's Investors Service has assigned a Ba3 rating to Northeast Wind Capital II, LLC's ("NWC" or "the Borrower") proposed $385 million of senior secured first lien credit facilities. The facilities consist of a $325 million senior secured first lien term loan due 2020 and a $60 million senior secured first lien revolving letter of credit (LOC) facility due 2018. This is the first time Moody's is rating NWC. The rating outlook is stable.

NWC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northeast Wind Capital Holdings LLC (Holdings), which owns 100% of the equity interests in the Borrower and is a 100% owned subsidiary of Northeast Wind Partners II, LLC (the Northeast JV), a joint venture 51% indirectly owned by First Wind Holdings, LLC (First Wind: not rated) and 49% by Emera Inc. (Emera: not rated). The Northeast JV owns nine operating wind projects in the Northeast with a combined generating capacity of 419 megawatts (MWs). Cash flows generated from these assets will be the sole source of repayment for the credit facilities.

Proceeds from the term loan will be used by the Borrower to repay approximately $300 million of debt currently outstanding within the Northeast JV. Upon completion of the proposed financing, all nine projects will be debt-free; however, two projects (Mars Hill and Bull Hill) will continue to be a party to a tax equity and sale-leaseback structure, respectively, each of which will call on the respective project-level cash flow.

The revolving credit facility will be used for the issuance of letters of credits to support project-level obligations, to fund a 6-month debt service reserve account, and for a $10 million major maintenance reserve account.


The Ba3 rating is supported by the fairly high degree of contracted cash flows that are expected to be generated from the Northeast JV's portfolio of operating wind projects and provided to the Borrower to meet its debt service requirements. The rating also takes into consideration our assessment of the strong political and regulatory support for renewable energy in the northeastern US.

These credit positives are balanced by certain operating challenges facing the Northeast JV and projected key financial metrics that in combination, position NWC somewhat weakly in the Ba3 rating category.

The nine projects owned by the Northeast JV have entered into off-take agreements of various tenors and structures with multiple credit-worthy counterparties. These contractual arrangements are largely fixed priced and include purchase power agreements (PPA's), financially-settled energy swaps (Swaps) and renewable energy credit purchase and sales agreements (RECs). The tenor of the PPA's and Swap's typically extend through 2019; however, a fairly large portion of the RECs are short-term in nature reflecting in part a lack of liquidity in that market.

According to our estimates and utilizing the P90 case as a starting point, about 90% of the aggregate expected cash flows available for debt service to be generated by the Northeast JV in 2014 and 2015 will be from existing contractual arrangements, declining to approximately 70% in 2016, 56% in 2017 and 50% in 2018. These percentages provide a fair degree of cash flow predictability and score within the Ba range under the Rating Methodology for Power Generation Projects (the Methodology) published in December 2012. Moreover, we calculate that contracted cash flows alone under the P90 case are expected to cover mandatory debt service (interest plus 1% annual principal amortization) by at least 1.0 times through 2017.

The appreciable decline in the percentage of contracted cash flows beginning 2017 is driven by the maturity of the short-term RECs. The rating, however, recognizes the political and regulatory support for renewable energy in the Northeast, a credit positive. Specifically, all of the states where the Northeast JV's assets are located (along with the neighboring states) have either mandatory or voluntary renewable portfolio standards. Given these standards, the limited risk of change to these requirements, and the barriers to entry for new renewable resources in this region, we expect First Wind to be able to continue to enter into incremental replacement RECs during the remaining tenor of the financing.

Key risks include the termination last February of operating and maintenance (O&M) and warranty agreements with Clipper Windpower, LLC (Clipper), gearbox failures at the Clipper turbines, and utility curtailment issues at three Maine plants, Stetson I & II and Rollins. While steps have been taken to mitigate each of these items, they represent significant and ongoing risks for the Northeast JV and could, if unresolved, negatively impact the Borrower's rating.

Four of the Northeast JV's projects (Cohocton, Steel Winds I, Steel Winds II and Sheffield) utilize Clipper turbines. Collectively, these projects account for approximately 200 MWs of the 419 MWs of generating capacity in the joint venture and more than 30% of total projected cash flows. Clipper's restructuring, which occurred in 2012, ultimately led to the release of the manufacturer from its warranty claims and the projects transitioning their O&M and parts supply arrangements from Clipper to affiliates of First Wind during the first quarter of 2013. We understand that providing O&M and part supply services to wind projects represents a new business activity for First Wind, which adds to this concern. To mitigate this issue and increase the level of worker experience performing turbine maintenance, First Wind has hired 11 former Clipper turbine technicians who have been relocated to the various projects.

Additionally, the Northeast JV portfolio has been experiencing gearbox failures at its Clipper sites. For example, since the beginning of 2013, six gearboxes have failed at Cohocton and one has failed at the Steel Winds which follows five gearbox failures in 2012 occurring at Cohocton.

Because of the termination of the Clipper warranty, the total cost to refurbish each gearbox failure (estimated by the Borrower to be approximately $650,000 per incident) is incurred by the respective project. The Northeast JV's strategy to mitigate the financial implications associated with gearbox failures includes a First Wind affiliate warehousing five spare gearboxes to minimize outage time and replacing bearings during the refurbishment process with those from a more reliable vendor. Also, Northeast JV's near-term projections for O&M assume significant yearly gearbox refurbishments and related costs (nine in 2014, seven in 2015 and five in 2016) which is intended to address this issue. NWC will have access to a $10 million major maintenance reserve account to provide liquidity support for higher-than-anticipated levels of gearbox failures.

Importantly, the remaining Northeast JV's projects utilize either General Electric (GE) or Vestas turbines (with 84% of the remaining MWs in the portfolio being GE turbines) and each project is party to a long-term operating and maintenance services and warranty coverage with their respective turbine manufacturer, which provides some balance to the Clipper exposure.

Curtailment risk is another challenge affecting the company as three of the Northeast JV's projects located in Bangor-Hydro's service territory in northern Maine, Stetson I&II and Rollins, have been curtailed by ISO-NE since 2012. The curtailment of the projects has been caused by transmission constraints and has reduced their respective generation outputs and cash flows. The Northeast JV, however, appears to have identified a fairly low-cost solution to remedy the constraint and the approach appears to have the support of both Bangor-Hydro and ISO-NE. Additional comfort is gained by the fact that even though curtailment risk during 2012 at Stetson I&II reduced production to levels consistent with the one-year P99 scenario, the projects were able to generate enough electricity to satisfy required contractual obligations with its respective counterparties. Assuming regulatory approval to implement the fix, which involves re-terminating Stetson and Rollin's existing transmission line, the curtailment issue could be remedied as early as the first quarter 2014.

From a financial modeling perspective, key assumptions used in management's base case include one-year P90 production levels, merchant REC pricing assumptions provided by the market consultant and gearbox refurbishment at $650,000 per incident, escalating 2% annually. In Moody's base cases, we also assume one-year P90 production levels, but with lower REC merchant pricing assumptions, higher gearbox refurbishment costs and more onerous assumptions relating to the curtailment of Stetson and Rollins. Financial results in the cases examined do not differ materially given the high degree of contracted cash flows through 2016. The resulting key financial metrics of FFO to debt and debt service coverage ratio in these scenarios range between 6-11% and 1.9 times-2.2 times, respectively, during the period 2014 through 2017, which score in the "B" rating category under the grid in the Methodology.

The one exception is the Northeast JV's anticipated debt-to- capitalization ratio, which in all cases examined scores in the Baa rating category, reflecting somewhat modest leverage.

Lenders will be protected by fairly traditional project financing structures, including a trustee administered waterfall of accounts, a six month debt service reserve, a major maintenance reserve account and a quarterly sweep of 50% of excess cash flow to be used to repay debt. There will also be a minimum debt service coverage requirement of 1.1 times.

All obligations under the credit facilities will be guaranteed by Holdings and each of the Borrower's existing and subsequently acquired or wholly-owned direct and indirect subsidiaries with the exception of subsidiaries that own Mars Hill and Bull Hill, which are subject to tax equity and sales leaseback structures. The credit facilities will be secured by a first priority security interest in the equity interest of each of the Borrower's existing and subsequently acquired or wholly-owned direct and indirect subsidiaries. Lenders will be supplied by a negative pledge that will not permit the subsidiaries to incur obligations secured by their assets, subject to customary exceptions.

Terms of the JV require that development projects identified by First Wind, should they meet certain eligibility criteria, must transfer to the Northeast JV. This was the case with Bull Hill, a Maine project that achieved commercial operation in 2012. First Wind has the ability to transfer up to an additional 1,166 MW of new projects into the Northeast JV. To help facilitate this goal, the financing has been structured to provide the flexibility to add incremental pari- passu term loan debt to refinance incremental qualified projects added to the Northeast JV.

While Moody's does not rate First Wind, it rates its affiliate First Wind Capital, LLC (B3 Corporate Family Rating, positive outlook). While this affiliate carries a deeply speculative grade rating, we believe that terms of the joint venture structure insulate lenders from any related family contagion risk. Specifically, the LLC Agreement requires that the Northeast JV be managed by a Board of Managers consisting of five managers, three appointed by First Wind and two by Emera. Certain actions by the Board, such as the voluntary filing of any bankruptcy petition, requires the approval of at least four of the managers.

The ratings are predicated upon final documentation in accordance with Moody's current understanding of the transaction and final debt sizing and model outputs consistent with initially projected credit metrics and cash flows.

Northeast Wind Capital II (NWC) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NewCo Holdings LLC, which owns 100% of the equity interests in NWC and is a 100% owned subsidiary of Northeast Wind Partners II, LC (the Northeast JV).

Formed in 2012, Northeast JV is 51% owned by First Wind and 49% by Emera. First Wind serves as the managing partner and operates the wind projects; Emera's affiliate Emera Energy provides energy management services.

The principal methodology used in this rating was Power Generation Projects published in December 2012. Please see the Credit Policy page on for a copy of this methodology.


For ratings issued on a program, series or category/class of debt, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to each rating of a subsequently issued bond or note of the same series or category/class of debt or pursuant to a program for which the ratings are derived exclusively from existing ratings in accordance with Moody's rating practices. For ratings issued on a support provider, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the rating action on the support provider and in relation to each particular rating action for securities that derive their credit ratings from the support provider's credit rating. For provisional ratings, this announcement provides certain regulatory disclosures in relation to the provisional rating assigned, and in relation to a definitive rating that may be assigned subsequent to the final issuance of the debt, in each case where the transaction structure and terms have not changed prior to the assignment of the definitive rating in a manner that would have affected the rating. For further information please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page for the respective issuer on

For any affected securities or rated entities receiving direct credit support from the primary entity(ies) of this rating action, and whose ratings may change as a result of this rating action, the associated regulatory disclosures will be those of the guarantor entity. Exceptions to this approach exist for the following disclosures, if applicable to jurisdiction: Ancillary Services, Disclosure to rated entity, Disclosure from rated entity.

Regulatory disclosures contained in this press release apply to the credit rating and, if applicable, the related rating outlook or rating review.

Please see for any updates on changes to the lead rating analyst and to the Moody's legal entity that has issued the rating.

Please see the ratings tab on the issuer/entity page on for additional regulatory disclosures for each credit rating.

Scott Solomon
Vice President - Senior Analyst
Infrastructure Finance Group
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Chee Mee Hu
MD - Project Finance
Infrastructure Finance Group
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

Releasing Office:
Moody's Investors Service, Inc.
250 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
JOURNALISTS: 212-553-0376
SUBSCRIBERS: 212-553-1653

No Related Data.


Wind farm owner’s inability to refinance debt raises questions about health of renewable energy market

Northeast Wind, the joint venture between First Wind and Emera that now owns five wind farms in Maine, has postponed efforts to refinance $385 million in debt because of unfavorable market conditions. The move, while not highly unusual, has some industry watchers asking whether the market is souring on the renewable energy sector.
The joint venture, formed by the two companies in June 2012, went to the market in early August to refinance $385 million in debt incurred during the deal, but the market wasn’t offering terms better than those the company currently has, according to John Lamontagne, a spokesman for Boston-based First Wind.
“An analogy would be if you went to refinance your house and you have 5 percent rate for a 30-year fixed, and you try to refinance and it’s 5 and a quarter,” he told the Bangor Daily News on Monday. “You’re not going to refinance.”
As part of the creation of Northeast Wind, First Wind transferred 385 megawatts of wind energy projects in New England, including all four of its projects in Maine — Mars Hill, Rollins Wind, Stetson Wind I and II — to the new company. A fifth Maine project, Bull Hill in Hancock County, was added later in 2012.
Emera then invested $211 million to own 49 percent of the new company, with First Wind owning the remaining 51 percent. In addition, Emera loaned $150 million to First Wind, according to Dina Bartolacci Seely, a spokeswoman for Halifax-based Emera, which owns Bangor Hydro Electric Co. and Maine Public Service Co.
Seely called the testing of the market “basically a standard process, for lack of a better term.”
“There was no obligation to refinance,” Seely told the BDN on Monday. “Essentially, they were testing the market, and based on results of that decided to wait until conditions were more attractive to the joint venture.”
But withdrawing the debt package raises broader questions about the current market interest in the renewable energy sector, and perhaps First Wind in particular, according to industry watchers.
From a policy perspective, there’s still strong support for renewable energy projects throughout New England states, according to Todd Griset, an attorney at Preti Flaherty in Portland who focuses on the energy sector.
“But from a business perspective, this suggests this particular debt offering wasn’t sufficiently attractive to this market,” Griset said. “Is it the terms of this particular offering or for the larger market for renewables as a whole? It’s hard to know. It’s possible it could be either one.”
This isn’t the first time First Wind has had problems in the credit market. It pulled an initial public offering in 2010 after the market conditions didn’t meet the company’s expectations.
Griset isn’t a completely neutral voice in the matter. He and his firm represent the Industrial Energy Consumers Group, which filed an appeal — along with the Maine Office of the Public Advocate and the Houlton Water Co. — after the Maine Public Utilities Commission, against the recommendation of the PUC staff, approved First Wind and Emera’s plan to form Northeast Wind Partners as a joint venture in 2012. The appelants argue the creation of Northeast Wind violates the Maine law that restructured the state’s electricity market and bars transmission companies such as Bangor Hydro from owning electricity-generating facilities, including wind farms.
That appeal is still pending at the Maine Supreme Court, Griset said. If the court agrees with the appellants, the decision will be sent back to the PUC, which will have to review whether it has the authority to approve the joint venture. If that occurs, “that makes the whole joint venture of Northeast Wind a whole lot different,” Griset said.
Eric Bryant, the attorney at the Maine Office of the Public Advocate who filed the appeal, was not available this week for comment, but last year told the Maine Center of Public Interest Reporting that he was “somewhat surprised” when First Wind and Emera went along with their business plan despite the pending appeals.
“It’s unusual for a company to make a decision when there’s risk involved that it may have to undo it because of a legal matter,” Bryant said at the time.
Moody’s Investor Services on Aug. 5 gave Northeast Wind’s proposed $385 million debt package a rating — Ba3 — it reserves for obligations “judged to have speculative elements and are subject to substantial credit risk.”
While the Moody’s rating doesn’t mention the pending appeals as a risk, it does mention other risks, including the fact First Wind has experienced a series of expensive gearbox failures at four wind farms in New York and Vermont that use turbines from Clipper Windpower LLC. According to Moody’s, First Wind suffered seven gearbox failures at those sites in 2013 through July, and five in 2012.
Because of Clipper Windpower’s restructuring in 2012, the company’s operating and maintenance and warranty agreements with First Wind were terminated, according to the Moody’s report. As a result, each gearbox failure costs First Wind $650,000 to refurbish, according to Moody’s. The Maine wind farms have turbines from Vestas and General Electric.
Moody’s mentions another credit risk is “utility curtailment issues” at three of its Maine wind farms, Rollins and Stetson I and II. “The curtailment of the projects has been caused by transmission constraints and has reduced their respective generation outputs and cash flows,” Moody’s reported.
“While steps have been taken to mitigate each of these items, they represent significant and ongoing risks for the Northeast JV and could, if unresolved, negatively impact the borrower’s rating,” the Moody’s report reads.
Despite the withdrawn debt offering, Lamontagne said First Wind is not having a hard time attracting investors, pointing out that it sold $200 million of senior secured bonds to investors in 2011. In total, the company has since 2004 raised between $4 billion and $5 billion to develop, build and operate its projects, Lamontagne said.
“I think that’s a strong statement in support from different investors,” he said.
Northeast Wind will return to the market to refinance its debt if market conditions improve, according to Seely from Emera, “but there are no immediate plans to do so.”

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tide is turning

First Wind is now in the process of submitting for an application to develop the Molunkus Wind Project in Medway, which would bring 65 wind turbines to the doorstep of Baxter State Park.
Similarly, First Wind is submitting for the Weaver Wind Project, which will bring another 60 wind turbines to Aurora. First Wind knows the tide is turning against them and is seeking to get these through as quickly and stealthy as possible.

We simply can’t afford to concede our state to Boston-based First Wind. They are destroying our state, one mountaintop at a time.

Darren Lord


Friday, August 23, 2013

Don't believe claims about wind power

Matt Walker made many claims about problems caused by fracking and the benefits he believes are inherent with "renewables," in his Aug. 12 Guest Voice column, "Erie should focus on clean energy."

While it is true that there are problems that come along with the development of any energy source, wind is no exception. And while it may come as a surprise to those in the alarmist camps, the fact is that there is a direct correlation between improved health and longevity in the United States, and the availability of reliable, affordable power here (ie: coal, natural gas, nuclear and hydro).
Let's consider the results to date of the billions of dollars that taxpayers and ratepayers have been forced to fork over to the wind power sector that Walker favors.
First of all, the same big, "bad" oil, coal, gas and nuclear corporations also own industrial wind factories (many of which have not paid any taxes in the U.S. in years). Initiated by Enron in the U.S., industrial wind is most useful to these giant corporations as a tax shelter generator.
Because wind is not reliable, predictable or dispatchable, it provides virtually no capacity value, or firm capacity (specified amounts of power on demand). Thus, wind needs constant "shadow capacity" from our reliable, conventional power sources, and it cannot replace conventional generators.
With approximately 200,000 industrial wind turbines installed worldwide today, wind has not significantly reduced CO2 emissions anywhere.

I live in Wyoming County in western New York state, not far from Erie. There are already 250 industrial wind turbines sprawling throughout entire towns here, with another 59 going up this summer. Contrary to Walker's claims, no meaningful permanent jobs have been created here, and nobody is getting free or reduced-rate electricity either. In fact, New York state has been cited as having the most expensive utility rates in the continental U.S.

Much of what used to be one of the most beautiful areas in New York has been turned into a sprawling industrial wind factory. Many of my friends' homes have been rendered virtually worthless. Let's be real. Would you buy and move your family into a home with towers that are 430-plus feet tall, with 7-ton blades spinning overhead, only hundreds of feet from your home?
I have yet to meet anyone who would.
And what have we gotten for all of this environmental and civic degradation?
New York's 16 installed wind factories produced an average 23 percent capacity factor (actual output) in 2012. Which one of you would buy a car that only operated 23 percent of the time? You wouldn't. You couldn't afford to. It's that simple. Any other piece of equipment that had such an abysmal performance record would have been dubbed a lemon and relegated to the trash heap a long time ago.
Consider the fact that one single 450 megawatt gas-fired combined cycle generating unit located near New York City (where the power is needed in New York state), operating at only a 60 percent capacity factor, could have supplied more electricity than all of New York state's 16 installed wind farms combined. That single 450 megawatt gas-fired combined cycle generating unit would significantly reduced CO2 emissions, with only about one-quarter of the capital cost of the wind factories.
Furthermore, that one gas-fired plant would actually create real, full-time jobs, unlike the wind farms, which have been figured to cost $11.45 million per job created, and as a result, cost more than four jobs lost elsewhere in the economy.

If that's not enough proof for you, now consider the fact that offshore wind has been estimated to cost three to four times more than onshore wind.
If you want to chase people, businesses and industries out of Pennsylvania by defacing the natural beauty of the Great Lakes and causing your electricity rates to skyrocket, pursuing the "green" energy boondoggle of wind power is a sure means to that end.

People need to educate themselves about these energy issues if we hope to maintain reliable, affordable power for all Americans. A good place to start is by reading "The Wind Farm Scam," by John Etherington, and by visiting the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions site,

Monday, August 19, 2013

First Wind proposes 5 wind farms to make power for Connecticut

Maine’s largest developer of wind-to-energy sites is proposing five new projects, including one in this southern Aroostook County town, as part of efforts to add Connecticut utilities as customers, officials said Friday.

A letter from First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor to Debra Morrell of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection listed Molunkus among five proposed projects that, if approved, would generate 410 megawatts of electricity. The Molunkus project would include 65 turbines, according to documents First Wind filed with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

According to Gaynor’s July 31 letter, a proposal called Weaver Wind in Aurora, Maine, would generate 99 megawatts; Somerset, near West Forks, Maine, 85; Goshen, Conn., 30; and Hancock Wind, in Eastbrook, would generate 51 megawatts.

Connecticut, according to First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne, requests proposals from clean-energy providers such as First Wind to provide electricity for Connecticut utilities and ratepayers.
“It would be new customers for the energy we generate,” Lamontagne said Friday. “Obviously when you are developing a wind project, you have to have someone buying the power.”

First Wind operates five wind farms in Maine: Mars Hill Wind in Aroostook County, Rollins Wind in Penobscot County, Bull Hill Wind in Hancock County, and Stetson Wind I & II in Washington County.

None of the four proposals within Maine have yet been submitted to Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection for approval, a necessary step before wind turbines are built.

Lynne Williams, an attorney who represents two anti-wind groups, said First Wind’s plans “would devastate the natural landscape” if they are approved.

“It is bad enough what is already there,” Williams said Friday. “Bull Hill’s turbines’ lights can be seen from Acadia [National Park]. To just go ahead and colonize the ridgelines in Maine is not only morally wrong but I have some real issues with the so-called environmental community in Maine for allowing this to happen.”

Several environmental groups, including some that have received contributions from First Wind, have spoken in favor of two recent projects that Maine’s DEP rejected. DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho on Aug. 6 dismissed First Wind’s application to build a 16-turbine wind farm on Bowers Mountain in eastern Penobscot County because of what she described as the project’s adverse impact on the Maine landscape.

The denial was the second issued to First Wind for a project on Bowers. The now-defunct Land Use Regulation Commission denied the company’s first proposal, which was for 27 turbines, in April 2012. Aho’s rejection of another developer’s plans to build a 14-turbine wind farm on Passadumkeag Mountain in Penobscot County last November later was overturned by the Board of Environmental Protection.

Aho’s decisions, Williams said, gave her more respect for DEP than she has for the environmental groups that tout wind power as a source of pollution-free energy, a portrayal she disputes.

Wind power, Williams said, is only a fraction of the total generated — not enough to create any great savings, but more than enough to overload Maine’s power grid.

“No one can produce for public consumption any data that shows that wind in general has taken any fossil fuels offline,” said Williams, a Bar Harbor-based lawyer who represents Protect Our Lakes, a group fighting a proposed wind farm in Oakfield, and Friends of the Boundary Mountains, which opposes a proposed industrial site on Kibbee Mountain. “It hasn’t happened.”

In effect, Connecticut utilities would be purchasing the added electrical capacity represented by the new project or projects, Lamontagne said. Connecticut officials will decide what proposals to accept next week, he said.

First Wind’s financial windfall from that effort could be substantial.

The five sites appear to be early in the siting process. First Wind officials have yet to place meteorological test towers in Molunkus to gauge wind conditions there. They have instead collected weather data there, Lamontagne said.

The company, Lamontagne said, hopes to have five to seven meteorological test towers there soon.
The towers measure wind speeds and constancy to determine whether the sites they are placed on are suitable for industrial wind farms.

Molunkus is just northeast of Medway.

The company lists four industrial wind sites in Hawaii, three in New York, two in Utah and one each in Vermont and Washington. The sites have 980 megawatts worth of generators on them, according to the company’s website,

The new offerings are among plans to allow First Wind to qualify for this year’s alternative energy tax credits, which run out by Jan. 1, Lamontagne said.


Friday, August 16, 2013

First Wind targeting Molunkus for 65-turbine project

Maine’s largest developer of wind-to-energy sites has done preliminary testing to see whether conditions in this southern Aroostook County town can support a 145-megawatt development, officials said Friday.

The company, spokesman John Lamontagne said, hasn’t yet established a test tower in the area, which would be its usual procedure in such situations, but hopes to have test towers there soon.
A letter from First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor to Debra Morrell of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection listed Molunkus among five projects that, if approved, would generate 410 megawatts of electricity, including one in Goshen, Conn. The Molunkus project would include 65 turbines, according to documents First Wind filed with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

According to Gaynor’s letter, Weaver Wind in Aurora, Maine, would generate 99 megawatts; Somerset, near West Forks, Maine, 85; and Hancock Wind, in Eastbrook, would generate 51 megawatts, according to the July 31 letter.

Molunkus is just northeast of Medway.

First Wind currently operates five wind farms in Maine: Mars Hill Wind in Aroostook County, Rollins Wind in Penobscot County, Bull Hill Wind in Hancock County, and Stetson Wind I & II in Washington County.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jonathan Carter: First Wind willing to trash Maine

First Wind of Boston is proposing the largest industrial wind project to date for Maine's western mountains. It will stretch more than 25 miles, from Bingham to Parkman.

The 64 500-foot turbines First Wind plans for that remote stretch of the Maine Woods will be highly intrusive and visible to large sections of the Appalachian Trail, from the Bigelow Preserve to Katahdin, including the wildest section of the Appalachian Trail, known as the “100 mile wilderness.”

The Expedited Wind Energy Act, passed in 2008 by the heavily lobbied and “gifted” Legislature, sets an 8-mile visual impact zone, which this string of turbines is beyond. Yet, the red flashing lights, shadow flicker, and noise pollution from the bird- and bat-killing turbines will completely industrialize the region.

The project area is also designated as critical habitat needed for the Atlantic salmon restoration efforts. This project will destroy the vegetation along the banks of 34 perennial streams critical for salmon recovery.

Mainers are being taken to the cleaners by First Wind of Boston. It has no concerns about the ecological impacts or the fact that these industrial wind “pig farms” are ruining the “wild” brand that defines Maine and attracts tourists, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

First Wind’s application to the Maine DEP states that “the purpose of the project is to create a commercially viable low impact wind energy project.” I cannot agree.

It is common knowledge that mountaintop industrial wind is not commercially feasible. The subsidies from local (TIFs), state (Pine Tree zones), and federal (production tax credits) governments are the only reason industrial wind projects are economically viable. In addition, the cost of electricity has risen and will continue to rise as a direct result of mountaintop industrial wind.

When those subsidies stop, you can count on First Wind disappearing with the public's tax dollar-generated profits, leaving behind a severely impoverished industrialized landscape.

It is a scam being perpetrated on the people of Maine by well-funded industrial wind lobbyists, a few quasi-environmental groups who refuse to get their heads out of the sand and others who refuse to stop taking the bribe money the wind corporations enjoy passing out.

The application also claims that a “wind power project like Bingham Wind Project addresses ... greenhouse gases impact on the environment, climate and the health of Maine citizens.” I disagree.

Every scientific study I have been able to review comes to exactly the opposite conclusion. Because wind is intermittent, it is necessary to back it up with conventional power plants.

Since these fossil fuel plants need to be ramped up and down to accommodate the intermittency, they end up using more fuel and putting out more greenhouse gases. It is like driving a vehicle in stop and go traffic. Vehicles use more fuel and put out more pollution due to engines running inefficiently.

When the greenhouse gases generated by construction and the consumption of large amounts of power needed to run the turbines (power not from the turbines), the thousands of gallons of regularly changed lubricants, the destructive mining of rare earth metals in Mongolia, the shipment of turbines, the plastics used in the composites — that so called “clean energy” is pretty darn dirty.

Add to that the loss of forest carbon sequestration due to the clearcutting of forests for turbine pads, roads and power lines, and mountaintop industrial wind doesn’t look so green.

Finally, First Wind claims that the Bingham Wind project is in the best interest of the “health of Maine citizens.” What about the Mainers who have had to move out of their homes because of the noise pollution or pernicious impact of infrasound — a sound used often as a torture technique around the world?

Mainers are now being treated with anti-depressants, blood pressure and insomnia medications as a direct result of industrial wind turbines. Yet First Wind has the gall to state that mountaintop wind power is good for the “health of Maine citizens.” It is only good for its financial bottom line.

One thing that I have learned during the past five years, and it was a hard fact to face, is that just because something is renewable doesn’t make it de facto clean and green.

First Wind is leaching taxpayer money to build turbines that are dividing communities, blasting off mountaintops, clear-cutting forests, killing birds and bats, forcing people out of their homes, negatively impacting the health of Mainers, and destroying the visual beauty of wild Maine.

Those actions are antithetical to Maine values.

It is truly a sad day for Maine if First Wind’s rampage of trashing Maine is allowed to continue.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Man Files $5M Suit For Noisy Wind Turbines

A year ago, Dan Williams moved from his home near Ione’s Willow Creek wind farm to Walterville, Ore. He said he couldn’t take the noise of whipping turbine blades any longer.

“It’s hard to explain it to people unless you experience it,” Williams said. “There’s the actual noise that wakes you, but there’s also the infrasound you can’t hear but your body feels. The best I can describe it is like a train or an airplane coming and going.”

Williams filed a lawsuit Friday against Invenergy, the Illinois-based company behind the wind farm, for non-economic losses up to $5 million, as well as economic losses — mostly related to property value depreciation — for $170,000.

Since Invenergy began construction on the 50 wind turbines at Willow Creek in 2008, it has fought in the courts over noise compliance.

First, the fight was over the actual noise limits. Invenergy said the Morrow County noise limit of 50 dBa was acceptable, Williams and a few neighbors argued that the wind farm had to comply with the state limit of 36 dBa.

Although neither enforced it, both the county and the state upheld the 36 dBa limit in seven different court findings.

“I’m extremely disappointed that county and state of Oregon both agree that there’s violations but won’t do anything about them,” Williams said.

After a 2009 noise study conducted on Williams’ property by Invenergy showed turbine noise levels reaching 42 dBa, the wind company embarked on an effort to comply with the noise levels through methods such as triggering turbine shut-downs at certain noise levels. Williams is also claiming the current technology takes too long to shut down after the noise limits are reached.

In the complaint filed Friday, Williams claims “emotional distress, deteriorating physical and emotional health, dizziness, inability to sleep, drowsiness, fatigue, headaches, difficulty thinking, irritation and lethargy” as a result of the turbines’ noise and flickering glare.

In a statement issued Friday, Invenergy said it wasn’t aware of any alleged health impacts to Williams until he filed the lawsuit and would “vigorously defend” itself against his claims.

“Notwithstanding the non-specific nature of these claims, it’s important to reiterate that numerous rigorous studies … have found no evidence to support a link between adverse health effects and sound emitted from wind turbines,” the company stated.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a noise level of 40 dBA is equal to a running stream or refrigerator humming, 30 dBa is a whisper and 50 to 60 dBa is a quiet office.

But Williams’ attorney, Jim McClandish, who did not want to talk specifically about the case, argued new research shows low-frequency wind turbine noise could be dangerous. While “wind turbine syndrome” was once pure speculation, recent studies show the low-frequency infrasound can cause symptoms such as the dizziness and nausea Williams said he experienced.

“The reverberation at low frequencies affects people’s inner ears. It impacts their ability to sleep, their concentration,” McClandish said.

The lawsuit is expected to take at least a year to make its way through the courts. Williams still owns his Ione home. He said even though he has left the property, he has no plans to stand down.
“What other option do I have?” Williams said. “I was there first. This was forced upon me. I’m a human being with strong convictions.”

Contact Natalie Wheeler at or 541-564-4536.

This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.


Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Maine environmental commissioner denies First Wind’s proposal for Bowers Mountain

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection on Monday officially denied First Wind’s application to build a 16-turbine wind farm on Bowers Mountain in eastern Penobscot County.
In a letter signed by DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho, the department rejected the proposed wind farm because it would have “an unreasonable adverse effect on the scenic character and existing uses related to scenic character” in the area, which includes eight lakes deemed Scenic Resources of State or National Significance within eight miles of the project site.

The official denial comes less than a week after the DEP staff recommended that the project be denied.

The 16-turbine wind farm would be located in Carroll Plantation and Kossuth Township. It was proposed by Champlain Wind LLC, a subsidiary of First Wind.

“We are disappointed in the decision by the DEP,” John Lamontagne, First Wind’s spokesman, said in a statement sent to the Bangor Daily News. “We believe the Bowers project is a well-sited project that will bring significant economic benefits for Maine and the region and it enjoys widespread support from nearly all of the state’s environmental organizations.”

Commissioner Aho was not available for a comment on Tuesday, but Mark Bergeron, who is in charge of land resources regulation at the DEP, backed up her decision.

“The department reviews each wind-power application thoroughly, making its permitting decisions within the context of the state’s environmental standards,” Bergeron said in a statement. “Our licensing staff reviews all wind power projects on a case-by-case basis and found that the proposed Bowers Wind Project would have an unreasonable adverse effect on the scenic character and existing uses on the eight interconnected great ponds located within the project area.

“In addition, while the project area is designated as part of the expedited permitting area for wind energy projects, the great ponds are primarily located in the only area in southern and eastern Maine that is not designated as a wind expedited area, which is the Downeast Lakes Region,” he said.

This is the second time First Wind has been denied a permit to construct a wind farm on Bowers Mountain. The now-defunct Land Use Regulation Commission denied the company’s first proposal, which was for 27 turbines, in April 2012. The company reduced the number of turbines to 16 for its second attempt, which it submitted to the DEP in October.

First Wind does have the opportunity to appeal Aho’s decision to the Board of Environmental Protection.

The appeal process did work for another developer, Passadumkeag Wind Park LLC, which wants to build a 14-turbine wind farm on Passadumkeag Mountain in Penobscot County.

In November, Aho rejected Passadumkeag Wind Park’s plans to build its wind farm because of the potential impacts it would have on scenic views in the area. It was the first time Aho had rejected a wind farm developer’s application for a permit.

However, Passadumkeag Wind Park appealed Aho’s decision to the BEP, which in March reversed her decision and allowed the project to move forward.

Lamontagne said First Wind “will review the decision and determine whether or not we wish to appeal the decision to the BEP.”

Gary Campbell, president of the Partnership for the Preservation of the Downeast Lakes Watershed, cheered Aho’s decision to reject First Wind’s proposal.

“We are extremely pleased with Commissioner Aho’s decision to deny First Wind a permit for the Bowers Mountain Wind Project based on its unreasonable adverse scenic impact,” Campbell said in a statement. “This denial reaffirms the wisdom of [the] LURC denial reached last April. The DEP and staff spent many months studying this project and the proposed site. They concluded, and the commissioner confirmed, that this project does not comply with the scenic standard spelled out in the Wind Energy Act.”

First Wind currently operates five wind farms in Maine: Mars Hill Wind in Aroostook County, Rollins Wind in Penobscot County, Bull Hill Wind in Hancock County, and Stetson Wind I & II in Washington County.


Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Maine DEP rejects First Wind's proposal for Bowers Mountain

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has rejected First Wind's proposal for a wind farm on Bowers Mountain, citing its harmful impact on the local scenery.

Commissioner Patricia Aho signed off on the decision by DEP staff to deny scaled-down proposal for 16 turbines by Maine's largest wind energy developer. The Land Use Regulation Commission denied First Winds' original proposal for 27 turbines in Carroll Plantation, Penobscot County, and Kossuth Township, Washington County.

DEP spokeswoman Jessamine (JESS'-uh-mine) said Tuesday that the revised proposal was rejected because of "scenic impacts."

Maine is New England's wind power leader with up to 500 megawatts of capacity. First Winds' proposal called for turbines producing between 62 megawatts to 48 megawatts of electricity.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Letter: Orangeville controversy continues

Many readers are aware of the controversy that has gripped the town of Orangeville for the past five years. An unsolicited multi-national corporation decided that it wanted to use the wind resource in our town and turn the township into a platform for profits. To add insult to injury, much of the profit will come from our taxes in the form of government subsidies and handouts. For the past five years a citizens’ group has fought hard to preserve the rural and local nature of Orangeville that attracted many to Orangeville in the first place. Many legitimate issues were raised about the effects of a wind project in the town both on local residents and on residents of surrounding townships including Warsaw and Attica.

But big money is now turning Orangeville into a “company-owned town.” Who can miss the caravan of cement trucks that are busily filling in our special places? Who can miss the caravan of other trucks carrying crushed stone for the access roads that cover once pristine countryside? Just look at the numbers: Each foundation for each wind turbine requires over 300 cubic yards of concrete. With nearly 60 turbines, the amount of concrete being poured into Orangeville soil will be well in excess of 18,000 cubic yards of non-native concrete. This requires 1,800 round-trips of cement trucks of 10 cubic yard capacity. And more truckloads still for the access roads. Who is keeping track of the damage to state and county roads as this onslaught continues? Importantly, who will pay for the damage to surrounding townships?
How will we go about repairing the damage to half the towns-peoples’ lives and property losses?

How will we protect our health, safety and welfare?

Previous actions of the Town Board provide no comfort here. The current and previous Town Board acted more as agents for big business than as civil representatives of the residents who elected them in the first place. Therefore, it is safe to assume that we will receive no help or sympathy from the very people who crafted the zoning laws that brought this Invenergy project into our town.

It is time for Orangeville managers to stand up and take a bow ... Susan May, Tom Schabloski, Andrew Flint, James Hermann and Hans Boxler (who already has benefited from Invenergy L.L.C.’s wind project in Sheldon).

Additionally, these Town Board members passed a resolution that raises a hurdle and a barrier to any taxpayer who wishes to have a complaint heard ... even problems of health and noise damage. We will have to pay a sizable amount to an arbitrator to even have our complaints heard. Conflicts of interest used to be illegal ... for these reasons — and more — we all must vote in mass numbers against these people during elections later this year.

So where do we go from here?

What is happening in Orangeville is not limited to Orangeville. Pilots and airfields in the neighboring townships of Attica and Warsaw are being adversely affected. The integrity of the Wyoming County emergency broadcast tower is being affected. Local wells and the Attica Reservoir may be at risk of becoming polluted. Roadways are deteriorating in surrounding townships. The view of the night sky is being reduced to an industrial complex of blinking red lights.

But inaction of the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors aside, many residents are not “rolling over and playing dead” in response to this destruction of our town of Orangeville and our lives. A group of citizens have already contacted Richard Lippes (winning attorney of Love Canal fame, and currently defending homeowners against corporate greed in the town of Attica). This group of thoughtful individuals is growing by leaps and bounds and has already formally put landowners on notice of their intent to seek legal remedies for any damages caused by the coming 43-story high industrial turbines.

The current Town Board is an accomplice in setting the stage for these potential lawsuits by minimizing the required distance between citizens and these behemoth machines. The coming turbines will sweep an area nearly 50 percent larger than anything that we have seen to date in neighboring Sheldon, Bliss or Wethersfield.

As the destruction and damage to Orangeville continues to unfold, it is important that we take back the leadership of any township that would willingly destroy itself for short-term profit. Profit for the few at the expense of the many.

If the current situation distresses you, a good next move is to contact “Where to go from Here,” P.O. Box 308, Warsaw, NY 14569; or phone (585) 786-2733 and we’ll get your message to those concerned.

Cathi Orr