First Wind Holdings Inc. (First Wind) has started operations at its 57 megawatt (MW) Stetson wind project. Situated in Washington county, Maine, Stetson Wind will have the capacity to generate clean, wind energy to power about 23,500 New England homes per year. The project consists of 38 General Electric 1.5 MW wind turbines, and will have the capacity to generate around 167 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of clean electricity every year. Construction on the project began in January 2008.

At an event hosted by First Wind outside the town of Danforth, Governor John E. Governor Baldacci spoke about the project and the environmental and economic benefits of wind power to the State of Maine.

Stetson Wind project will surpass First Wind’s Mars Hill facility as the largest wind energy project in operation in the State of Maine and in New England. The project officially began generating power on a commercial basis and delivering it to the New England electrical grid today.

The project created 350 development and construction jobs, and First Wind spent about $50 million with Maine-based businesses developing and building the project.

First Wind plans to build additional projects in Maine, including a proposed 25.5 MW expansion at Stetson Wind, as well as the 60 MW Rollins Wind project near the town of Lincoln. First Wind has submitted permit applications with state agencies for both projects.

Today’s event featured several key supporters and local businesses that helped make the project possible including Jack Parker, president and chief executivee officer of Reed & Reed, the general contractor for Stetson Wind, who highlighted his company’s full commitment to building wind energy farms in the future.

In addition, both Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Chris Gardner, chairman of the Washington county commissioners offered praise for the Stetson wind project.

Stetson Wind will provide both environmental and economic benefits to the surrounding region. A project of this type can be considered a success for the following reasons:

A traditional fossil fuel facility producing the same amount of electric energy that Stetson Wind will generate, would consume more than 331,000 barrels of oil per year or over 89,000 tons of coal per year.

Wind energy emits no greenhouse gases. Based on data recently published by the U.S. EPA’s Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database (E-GRID), traditional New England generation sources producing an equivalent annual amount of electric energy as Stetson Wind would emit greenhouse gases (GHG) consisting of nearly 76,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

To put this in perspective, the amount of CO2 avoided is the equivalent to the annual emissions of over 13,000 cars or over 9,000 SUVs.

In addition, equivalent energy production from traditional sources would produce 190 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Both SO2 and NOx cause acid rain.

Through the development and construction of Stetson Wind, more than $50 million has been spent with Maine-based businesses and organizations.

In total, $4 million in tax payments will be made to local communities over the next 20 years.

First Wind hires local business services whenever possible, and employed more than 350 people during construction of Stetson Wind. In addition, 6 full time jobs have been created now that the project is in commercial operation.

“The Stetson Wind project continues Maine’s aggressive leadership in pursuing energy independence,” said Baldacci. “We are capitalizing on the clean, renewable sources of energy that exist in our State, like wind, solar and tidal. By harnessing these sources of energy locally, we keep money in our State and we create jobs in our State, all while improving our environment and our national security.”

“Today, we are proud to mark the commencement of commercial operations of our Stetson Wind project,” said Paul Gaynor, president and chief executive officer of First Wind. “With nearly 100 MW of clean, wind energy being generated between Stetson Wind and our Mars Hill project, we’re making renewable wind power in Maine a reality and plan to continue our commitment to the state through a number of other projects already in development.”

“Reed & Reed was honored to work for months in this community, and there are many people who deserve applause,” said Parker. “We are very fortunate here in Maine because the wind blows strong and on a regular basis. Reed & Reed, as a leader in the industry, has invested millions of dollars in very large equipment needed to construct these wind farms. The investment in both technology and human resources will continue to serve the state of Maine well, especially in challenging economic times, and in rural areas of our state where the job opportunities are needed most.”

“This project represents another big step in Maine’s leadership in generating clean, renewable energy,” said Pete Didisheim. “Each wind power project built in Maine provides us with jobs and helps reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. In Maine, we’re not just talking about the need for clean energy, we’re doing it. The companies and subcontractors who have brought this project to completion are helping to create a new energy future not just for Maine, but for our nation.”

“We have had the pleasure of working with First Wind in bringing the Stetson project to fruition and as such we have been able to see first hand the tremendous dedication of their organization to holding to their commitments in these large scale projects,” said Chris Gardner. “Throughout the process, the people of First Wind have been good stewards of the land and the people’s trust.”