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SunEdison sale of Aroostook wind farm raises concerns

The recent sale of a wind power development site in Aroostook County to out-of-state investors has an anti-wind development group in Somerset County concerned that a similar scenario could unfold for a planned project in the Moosehead Lake area.

A federal judge last week approved the sale of SunEdison’s King Pine project, a planned 600-megawatt wind farm in southern Aroostook County, to San Francisco-based Pattern Energy for $26.5 million, according to federal court filings.

The sale is the latest move by SunEdison, which declared bankruptcy in April, to rid itself of its Maine assets. In 2015, the company also sold its Bingham and Oakfield wind projects to a division of J.P. Morgan and withdrew a Department of Environmental Protection application for a project in Hancock County.

A 26-turbine wind farm has been planned by SunEdison in the Misery Ridge area of Somerset County, near Moosehead Lake.

Terraform Power, a subsidiary of SunEdison, owns four other projects in Maine – in Mars Hill, Stetson, Blue Hill and Rollins.

John Lamontagne, a spokesman for SunEdison in Massachusetts, said that he could not speculate on the possible sale of other SunEdison projects in response to concerns from a board member of the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, an anti-wind group dedicated to fighting wind development in the Moosehead Lake area.

Richard McDonald, a board member of the Moosehead Regions Future Committee and president of the anti-wind group Saving Maine, said there’s “a ton of uncertainty” surrounding the Somerset County wind farm.

“We’re looking at a project that would permanently alter the landscape and the natural setting of one of the most important tourism-based regions in the state,” McDonald said.

McDonald said groups he’s affiliated with are both opposed to the Somerset County wind farm proposal.

The Moosehead committee has previously said the proposed Somerset wind development is a “threat to the region’s tourism-based economy and the livelihoods of thousands of local residents.”

“They could sell these assets for 20 cents on the dollar and we could have a whole other set of circumstances with another out-of-state wind developer coming in,” McDonald said, referring to the King Pine project sale to the California-based firm.

Weyerhaeuser, a timber company that owns the land where the Somerset Wind project is being proposed, last month dropped opposition to some communities in the area leaving a fast-track wind development zone that would have made it easier for the wind farm to be constructed. But a spokesman for Weyerhauser said last month that the decision to opt out of the expedited zoning area is not related to the development of the Somerset Wind project and would not have an impact on it.

An application for the Somerset Wind Project has not yet been filed with the Department of Environmental Protection.