More in News
Record Hill project gets preliminary OK on financing
ROXBURY -- The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday they have issued a conditional $102 million loan guarantee to cover a portion of the cost of constructing the Record Hill LLC wind project.
The conditional commitment is still subject to final agency reviews but moves the project a major step closer to resuming construction which was suspended in early 2010.
As part of the financing commitment, it was announced that the Yale University Endowment would be a major sponsor of the project, working with the Maine-based Independence Wind, LLC and Wagner Wind Energy I, LLC of Lyme, NH to bring the project to completion.
In a press release, Independence Wind, LLC President, Rob Gardiner said, "We're delighted that the exhaustive review done by the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office has resulted in this step toward making the project a reality. And having a world-class financial partner like the Yale endowment involved brings real financial depth and expertise to the table as well."
In response to the news, Friends of Maine's Mountains (FMM) called the decision an example of political cronyism and a reckless use of federal stimulus funds.
The developers of the project are a partnership formed between former Maine governor Angus Kings' Independence Wind LLC, Wagner Wind Energy LLC of Lyme, NH and the Yale University Endowment.
"The support of this project with federal tax dollars highlights perfectly what the growing number of critics of industrial wind have have been saying all along," said FMM executive director Michael Pajak. "First, Angus King's strong political connections to the administration in Washington, DC have enabled this substantial subsidy to a project that could not otherwise prove its own financial capacity. The loan guarantee is in addition to an anticipated $70 million from the U.S. taxpayer in the form a Section 1603 cash grant that will be handed to King and his partner, Rob Gardner.
"The Yale University Endowment is currently valued at just under 17 billion dollars. One has to ask," continued Pajak, "if industrial wind is the sound, economic and sustainable energy-producing investment that its proponents claim, why are the federal government and the American taxpayer needed to finance their venture? This federal loan guarantee is said to be for innovation. Windmills have been around since at least the days of Don Quixote. The only innovation here is the use of other people's money to line their own pockets while blasting Maine's mountains."
Pajak noted, "These projects have been given the green light and fast-tracked through the permitting process so quickly that local residents, let alone the larger environmental community, have hardly had a chance to prepare a defense. Now we learn that an entity as well-known for its commitment to the environment as Yale University is prepared to accept government handouts while destroying a significant Maine asset, our landscape."
The Dept. of Energy's loan guarantee program has offered $18 billion worth of guarantees for 20 clean energy projects, which has become central to the debate over the Obama administration's energy policy. While the administration wants to increase funding for the program, Republicans want to cut it.
The 22-turbine wind-power project was approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in August of 2009 after a nine-month process involving numerous public meetings and the submission of voluminous environmental studies. Project opponents appealed this permit to the Board of Environmental Protection, which denied the appeal last March. Opponents then appealed the Board's order to the Maine Supreme Court which heard arguments on the case in January. A decision on the case is expected soon.
“We are extremely pleased about this successful partnership with Independence Wind and Yale,” said Wagner Wind Energy I, LLC President Tom Colgan. “We look forward to continuing to work on innovative ways to sustainably utilize natural resources and provide economic benefits to Maine communities.”
In addition to increased tax revenue and job creation, Record Hill Wind will be providing free electricity to all residents within the town of Roxbury – a benefit the developers believe is a first in the nation idea.
The project will include a 50.6-megawatt wind farm with 22 turbines and an eight-mile transmission line, the department said. Record Hill would have to meet certain conditions as part of the deal.