Boothbay planning board eyes workshops for possible solar, wind power ordinances

Fri, 02/18/2022 - 8:45am

    The Boothbay Planning Board agreed to schedule workshops to review land use ordinances on renewable energy structures. Board members made their decision following a Feb. 16 request by local fisherman Eben Wilson and business owner Alison Evans who voiced concerns the town had no control over the New England Aqua Ventus project in East Boothbay. NEAV is s a partnership between Maine Prime Technologies – a business arm of the University of Maine – and two wind industry companies. Diamond Offshore Wind is a Japanese subsidiary of Mitsubishi, and RWE Renewables is German-owned. 

    “Citizens feel like there should be checks and balances at the local level for this. There are none. They are using a public right of way on Route 96 which means all the oversight is from the state,” Wilson said.

    NEAV is developing an off-shore wind turbine which will be off Mohegan Island. Boothbay was picked as an on-shore location for connecting off-shore  “green” electricity to the power grid via Central Maine Power’s Boothbay Harbor substation. In November, East Boothbay residents became concerned seeing surveyors on their properties without notice or permission. Several residents complained the workers declined to reveal their employer. Later, it was revealed the workers were employed by NEAV.

    Evans told the planning board this was an example of NEAV’s “pattern of secrecy.” She believes Boothbay is NEAV’s third choice after two other communities, Bristol and Port Clyde, forced it to choose another site. 

    “Diamond has a history of doing this type of thing. They don’t ask permission. They do what they want, and apologize later,” she said. “There are many unanswered questions, but they don’t have to put anything in front of the town because they don’t have to.”

    The board agreed current land use ordinances don’t spell out restrictions for renewable power projects, but Chairman William Wright disagreed about the town having no oversight. Wilson and Evans sent the board a letter last month citing their concerns and copies of Bristol’s and Port Clyde’s wind power ordinances. “I recognized several points in our ordinance that are in Port Clyde’s  and Bristol’s. So I have to disagree there is no town oversight,” he said. “But I understand these are emerging technologies, and we should take a look at them.”

    On whether the current ordinance provides oversight for projects like NEAV’s, town officials responded it depends upon the application. “Since there is nothing before us, it’s hard to comment so I think you are a little ahead of the process,” Wright told Evans and Wilson. 

    Wright was joined by two other board members, Peggy Kotin and Mike Thompson, in reaching a consensus on holding workshops, possibly as soon as March.

    In other action, the board voted 3-0 to approve a wharves and wiers permit for East Boothbay property owners. Kevin French and Edna Miller of Rumney, New Hampshire sought approval to construct a 40-foot by 6-foot pier with a seasonal 40-foot by 3-foot runway to a 20-foot by 10-foot float perpendicular to the shore.

    The board meets next at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16 in the conference room.