First Wind, an independent U.S.-based wind energy company, announced that it has obtained $76 million in construction financing for its 34 megawatt (MW) Bull Hill Wind project in Hancock County, Maine. With financing in place, First Wind will start major construction activities on the project, which will have the capacity to generate enough clean energy to power about 18,000 homes.
“We are excited to complete the financing and start construction of the Bull Hill Wind project, which will be our fifth wind project in Maine to achieve commercial operations,” said Paul Gaynor, CEO of First Wind. “We appreciate the commitment of our financial partners, and we are grateful for the support the project has received from the businesses, citizens and political leadership of Hancock County along with our project partners across the state and the region. The Bull Hill Wind project will expand our capacity to generate clean, renewable energy in Maine to nearly 220 megawatts, and we are proud to boost the local economy during the construction as well as through the ongoing operations of the project.”
A subsidiary of First Wind closed a $70 million non-recourse construction loan and $6 million in letters of credit for the Bull Hill Wind project. Union Bank served as Administrative Agent and Project LC Issuing Bank. Additionally, an affiliate of Union Bank will provide long-term capital through sale-leaseback financing for the Bull Hill Project upon achievement of commercial operations.
The output of the Bull Hill Wind project will be sold to NSTAR under a long-term power purchase agreement, which was approved in August 2011. The Bull Hill Wind project received approval from the state’s Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) in October 2011. Once complete, Eastbrook and the surrounding communities in Hancock County will receive an average aggregate tax payment of approximately $100,000 annually for the next 20 years and an additional $240,000 annually in community benefit payments—more than $7 million in total.
“As anyone in the timber business will tell you, we appreciate the diversity that wind power brings to long-term investors in timberlands,” said Jay Haynes, President of Lakeville Shores, the major landowner of the project site. “First Wind shares our company’s commitment to investing in Maine, and this project is going to represent a long-term economic contributor to the people and businesses of Hancock County and the surrounding region.”
Construction of the project will include the installation of 19 Vestas 1.8 MW wind turbines on Bull Hill and Heifer Hill ridges in Hancock County, Maine. During construction, the Bull Hill Wind project will create about 200 jobs and will provide significant revenue to the surrounding communities. Maine-based contractor Reed & Reed has commenced site preparation work and is hiring mostly Maine-based businesses and subcontractors to work on the project. The installation of the turbines is expected to take place during the summer of 2012, and the project is expected to be online and operating by the end of 2012.
“Our team is very pleased to be working on the Bull Hill Wind project,” said Jack Parker, President and CEO of Reed & Reed, the Woolwich, Maine general contractor for the project. “Having built all of First Wind’s Maine projects, we have seen the positive impact that this investment has had on the host communities, and in fact the entire Maine economy. Not only do these wind power projects create hundreds of jobs during construction, local businesses see a big boost to their bottom line. In addition to the clean energy wind projects generate, the community benefits after the projects are up and running are significant: from funding essential capital improvement projects and lowering Mainers’ property taxes, to helping Maine businesses expand and train their employees. Bull Hill is a project that will have a very lasting and positive impact on many Maine families.”
Bull Hill Wind will represent First Wind’s fifth operational project in Maine. First Wind has four other operational wind projects in Maine including the 42 MW Mars Hill Wind project in Aroostook County, which just marked its five-year anniversary of commercial operations, along with the 60 MW Rollins Wind project in Penobscot County and the 57 MW Stetson Wind and the 26 MW Stetson Wind II projects, both located in Washington County.
Combined, these facilities have capacity to generate 185 MW, enough to supply clean power to about 85,000 households. Over $125 million in direct spending has been invested into Maine-based companies during the development and construction of these four projects. First Wind has invested another $420 million in wind projects in Maine. The company’s four Maine projects are scheduled to make more than $40 million in tax payments to host communities over the next 30 years. First Wind has created jobs for over 1,000 workers during development and construction of its other Maine projects, in addition to over 40 continuous full-time jobs in the state since 2004.