A nonprofit group that has fought commercial wind development in the Moosehead Lake region is expressing concern that energy company SunEdison might file for bankruptcy and said it is committed to defeating plans the company has to build a 26-turbine wind farm in Misery Ridge.

The Moosehead Region Futures Committee also is planning to fight opposition to small townships and unorganized territories near Moosehead Lake leaving a fast-track wind development zone as part of that effort, according to a news release from the group Thursday.

“We felt it was important to get it out there and let everyone know that there could be some serious problems if SunEdison goes bankrupt,” said Richard McDonald, a member of the steering committee for the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, in an interview Thursday.

In August, SunEdison installed meteorological towers on land owned at the time by Plum Creek, a forest management company, in the Misery Ridge area of Somerset County with plans to test wind conditions in advance of a potential project. No formal application for a project has been submitted yet to the Department of Environmental Protection.

“The Somerset Wind development is a threat to the region’s tourism-based economy and the livelihoods of thousands of local residents,” said John Willard, president of the Moosehead Regions Futures Committee, in the news release Thursday. He said the group is concerned that there is no plan for dealing with the potential abandonment of the meteorological towers installed by SunEdison if the company files for bankruptcy.

“What’s going to happen if they are abandoned? Who would be responsible for the expense of removing them? The developers may go bankrupt, and the Moosehead region will be stuck with this mess,” Willard said.


The news release said the group welcomes the opportunity to speak with land owner Weyerhaeuser Co., which bought Plum Creek and its assets in November.

SunEdison spokesman John Lamontagne said he couldn’t comment on whether the company is filing for bankruptcy or what might happen to its assets in Maine if that happens. Last month the Los Angeles Times reported that one of SunEdison’s affiliates said the company is at risk of filing for bankruptcy protection. The company also reportedly is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over whether it might have overstated to investors how much cash it had on hand in November, according to the Times.

Mark A. Doty, public affairs manager for Weyerhaeuser in the northeast, said in an email Thursday that he could not comment on the proposed Somerset wind project.

Meanwhile, more then 20 townships and unorganized territories in the area have requested that the state exempt them from its expedited wind permitting zone, which under Maine’s Wind Energy Act allows for the fast-track development of commercial wind farms in parts of the state’s unorganized and rural areas.

Communities have until June 30 to submit petitions asking the state to exempt them from the expedited area, and as of Thursday more than a dozen communities were close to gaining exemption. They include the Forks, West Forks, Moxie Gore and others for whom the state Land Use Planning Commission has approved petitions and no opposition has been filed.

The Moosehead Region Futures Committee plans to fight opposition to remaining townships that are asking to leave the expedited wind permitting area, including Misery Gore, where part of the Somerset wind project would be.


Leaving the area isn’t a guarantee that a wind project won’t or can’t be built, but it does present challenges that could stop wind development, said McDonald, who is also president and director of communications for the anti-wind group Saving Maine.

“We’re trying to protect our region because that’s all we have,” he said. “We have a tourism economy. The mills are closing, and we continually hear bad news about the forest products industry. What do we have left aside from tourism? (Wind development) is just not in concert with that strategy.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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