On December 22nd, following a two hour public hearing, Somerset County’s board of Commissioners approved a tax increment financing (TIF) district designation and development plan for a major new Maine wind energy project. First Wind, LLC is currently developing a 56 turbine, 184 MW wind energy project to be constructed in the town of Bingham and Mayfield township (Somerset County) and Kingsbury Plantation (Piscataquis County). The County Commissioners’ action pertains to the 24 turbines that will be located in Mayfield township, a part of Somerset County’s unorganized territories. The County Commissioners also approved a separate community benefit agreement between the project subsidiary, Blue Sky West, LLC and the County.
Rudman Winchell’s economic development team of Erik Stumpfel and Noreen Norton worked closely with Somerset County’s TIF committee and County public officials over several months to negotiate the financial package with First Wind and Blue Sky West, LLC, and to craft the County’s portion of the TIF development program. Erik also moderated the December 22nd TIF public hearing.
The TIF development program includes funding for roads and other capital projects at 18 locations throughout the unorganized territory of Somerset County; UT public safety improvements; mitigation of adverse impacts of the wind energy project; economic development marketing for the unorganized territory; nature-based tourism development; environmental improvement projects; a business development revolving loan fund; education and training for UT residents; design, construction and maintenance of UT recreational trails (motorized and non-motorized); UT transit service improvements; and matching funds for state and federal economic development grants. The estimated $17+ million of new revenues to be provided to Somerset County from the TIF district and the separate community benefit agreement will enable Somerset County to work toward future job growth within the UT and the County as a whole, without raising existing UT or County property tax rates.
Upon completion of construction in 2016, the 184 MW Bingham wind energy project will – briefly – become the largest operating wind energy project in New England, surpassing First Wind’s 150 MW Oakfield project. A still larger, 250 MW wind energy project has been proposed by EDP Renewables, LLC for Number Nine Mountain in northern Aroostook County.