DANFORTH — Gov. John Baldacci joined First Wind officials and builders Thursday to mark the start of commercial energy generation at the Stetson Wind project, which becomes the largest wind-power facility in New England.

First Wind said the 38 General Electric turbines on Stetson Mountain in Washington County will generate about 167 million kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year, the equivalent power needs of 23,500 homes.

With Thursday’s dedication, the project officially began generating power for delivery to the New England electrical grid, said the Newton, Mass.-based First Wind.

Stetson surpasses the 28-turbine Mars Hill wind project in northern Maine as New England’s largest. Both projects are First Wind’s.

Baldacci said power from Stetson Wind displaces traditional energy production that contributes to global warming and pollution.

First Wind says a traditional fossil fuel facility producing the same amount of electric energy as Stetson Wind would consume more than 331,000 barrels of oil per year.

Baldacci said First Wind spent about $50 million with Maine businesses to complete the construction, which began about a year ago. About 350 jobs were created in development and construction of the project, located in a remote area southwest of Danforth.

First Wind President Paul Gaynor said Mars Hill and Stetson together are generating nearly 100 megawatts of clean wind energy. He said the company is making renewable wind power in Maine a reality and has other projects already in development in the state.

Even as the Stetson project goes on line, First Wind is seeking permitting for an extension known as Stetson II. It also plans a project near the town of Lincoln.

In western Maine, Alberta-based TransCanada’s 44-turbine project on Kibby Mountain is under construction. After completion in 2010, it is expected to generate the equivalent power needs of 50,000 homes. Several other Maine projects are also in planning stages.

“In Maine, we’re not just talking about the need for clean energy, we’re doing it,” said Pete Didisheim of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “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.”