Somerset Wind Developer: NRG Energy, Houston, TX

Location: The project will be sited in a conservation easement (Easement A-1 – see map below) on land owned by the Weyerhaeuser Company that includes portions of Misery Ridge Township, Chase Stream Township, Johnson Mountain Township (substation and MPCP transmission interconnect location).

Project Size: 26 turbines/93.6 Megawatts

Turbine Equipment: Vesta Model 136 (https://www.vestas.com/en/products/turbines/v136%20_3_45_mw#!first-turbine-installed)

Turbine Nameplate Capacity: 3.45 megawatts (Nameplate is the megawatt output rating of an industrial turbine operating at 100% of capacity. On average, turbines in Maine operate at 27%-30% of nameplate capacity. For example, Somerset Wind at 100% capacity would generate 93.6 megawatts annually, but actual output will range from 25 to 28 megawatts annually.)

Turbine hub height: 270 feet
Turbine blade length: 220 feet
Turbine height to blade tip: 490 feet

Viewshed Analysis

The viewshed analysis you are viewing was produced by the ESS Group – technical consultants to Moosehead Region Futures. ESS utilizes state-of-the-art software modeling to determine the visual impact of large industrial facilities such as industrial wind farms and high voltage transmission lines. The ESS Group (http://www.essgroup.com/renewable-energy.html) has extensive experience in evaluating the visual impact of industrial wind facilities.

A vewshed analysis is conducted to determine the geographic areas within the visual study area (8, 12, and 25 miles) that have a reasonable probability of project visibility. The viewshed analysis conducted for Moosehead Region Futures focuses primarily on Blade Tip Visibility (492 feet), the highest project component of a wind turbine generator.

Based upon the current information of the proposed or hypothetical project location, the number of turbines and turbine height, areas shaded in red will experience project visibility.

Map #1 demonstrates project visibility of the proposed SunEdison/Somerset Wind project within an 8, 12, and 25 mile area from hypothetical turbine locations. Areas shaded in red will experience project visibility.

Map #2 demonstrates project visibility, or the combined visual impact, of the proposed SunEdison/Somerset Wind (A-1 easement only) and the proposed EverPower/Northwest Wind projects within an 8, 12 and 25 mile area from hypothetical turbine locations. Areas shaded in red will experience project visibility.

Map #3 demonstrates the combined visual impact of a full build-out of the proposed SunEdison/Somerset Wind project. The current proposal for SunEdsion/Somerset Wind is for easement A-1 only, but documents previously submitted by SunEdison suggest the potential to expand the facility into easements A-2 and A-3. The visual impact analysis covers areas within an 8, 12 and 25 mile radius from hypothetical turbine locations. Areas shaded in red will experience project visibility.

Map #4 demonstrates the combined visual impact of the full build-out of SunEdison/Somerset Wind and the EverPower/Northwest Wind projects. SunEdison/Somerset Wind buildout would include easements A-1, A-2, A-3. The visual impact analysis covers areas of 8, 12 and 25 mile radius from hypothetical turbine locations. Areas shaded in red will experience project visibility.

Central Maine Power(CMP), along with industrial wind developers Somerset Wind and NextEra are partners in plan to construct a wind energy corridor from the western border near Eustis to the base of Johnson Mountain. NextEra is proposing two large wind farms in the Eustis area. The high voltage, 400 yard wide corridor would travel from NextEra’s developments to the Moosehead region to a power grid interconnection at the base of Johnson Mountain for Somerset Wind. The corridor would impact Parlin Pond, Johnson Mountain Townships and West Forks Plantation then move on to Moscow, Bingham and Athens. The high voltage corridor is being proposed to provide Somerset Wind and NextEra transmission access to sell their power to southern New England utilities. The proposed high voltage transmission line is being designed with an additional capacity of 500 megawatts. The additional megawatts is called “headroom’ which would allow the interconnection of more wind development in the future for the region.

This map shows the hypothetical turbine layout deploying turbines in all three conservation easements. The total turbine count could reach 85 if all areas are fully utilized.

Current Status:

Project development has been going on for two years.

Somerset Wind was originally proposed by First Wind, the developer of the 62 turbine wind farm in Bingham. Somerset Wind was the next phase of a multi-part plan to develop a large cluster of wind farms in western Somerset and Franklin counties including the Moosehead Region

In 2015, First Wind was purchased by SunEdison, the world’s largest renewable energy developer. In April of 2016, SunEdison filed for bankruptcy after accumulating massive debt in a buying spree that included First Wind the Somerset Wind project. Through the bankruptcy divestiture process, the rights to Somerset Wind were sold to NRG, another major player in renewable energy development. NRG took possession of Somerset Wind in September of 2016.

From 2015 to 2017, preparations have been underway to complete a number of studies and evaluations necessary for Somerset Wind to initiate the permitting process with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. At this time, we do not have a detailed status of those preparations, but we assume NRG is poised to submit a permit application once they secure a long-term (20 year) energy power purchase agreement.

During Somerset Wind’s transition of ownership, the State of Massachusetts was planning to release a request for proposal (RFP) for 9.5 million Mwh of renewable energy (wind/solar/hydroelectric) for delivery in 2020 to meet their renewable mandates set by the Massachusetts legislature. The Mass Clean Power RFP was released in March 0f 2017 – it called for bids to be submitted by July 27, 2017 with the expectation that successful bidders would be selected in January of 2018. Somerset Wind submitted a bid in July to supply 93.6 MW of wind power for 20 years to three utilities in Massachusetts.

In order to transport Somerset’s output to Massachusetts, they have partnered with Central Maine Power and their proposed Maine Clean Power Connection (MCPC) high voltage transmission line. The 145 mile MCPC line with run from the western border (west of Eustis) with Quebec to a substation at the base of Johnson Mountain, then down to Moscow, Pittsfield and connect in Westbrook to the line that eventually feeds power to southern New England.  The Somerset county portion of the MCPC line will cut a 26.5 mile, 1400 foot wide corridor and cross through The Forks and span the Dead River. The MCPC will also be available to connect the proposed NextERa projects being planned in Alder Stream and Penobscot Townships. Combined, the NextERa projects will total 163 turbines.

In addition to the two NextEra projects, EDF, a Canadian company, is proposing Timberline Wind – a 43 turbine project that will also tie-into the MCPC transmission. The exact location of Timberline Wind was not disclosed in their bid to Massachusetts, but we hope to know the development site in a few weeks.

The future of Somerset Wind and the other four projects being proposed in the region rely exclusively on CMP’s MCPC line to connect them to Massachusetts. If the MCPC line is not a selected bidder (they submitted a separate bid), the proposed wind farms have no market access and would not meet the RFP requirements.

We will continue to update the Somerset project and the MCPC as information becomes available.