PARIS — Dozens of people listened to five speakers give their views on wind energy at a forum Friday.
Linda Walbridge, of the Western Maine Economic Development Council, said the goal of the forum was to help residents make informed decisions about wind power on a local level. The speakers included one proponent and one opponent of wind power, a sound permitting specialist and two people involved with proposed wind turbine projects in Oxford Hills.
Dylan Voorhees, clean energy and global warming project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said electricity in Maine comes from sources within the state as well as a regional New England grid.
"Altogether, there are a lot of dirty fuels in this mix, and a lot of expensive fuels," he said.
Voorhees said nonrenewable energy sources such as natural gas are vulnerable to sharp price increases and also contribute to pollution and health problems. Voorhees said wind power is competitive with other fuels in terms of cost per watt, and that wind power would displace natural gas or other more expensive fuels when it is fed into the grid.
Lawrence J. Dwight, president of Dwight Investment Counsel of Wilton, described himself as an economist and environmentalist who has done work with the Audubon Society. Dwight said that studies are available on the impact of wind turbines in Europe, and that there has been no increase in jobs or decrease in foreign oil imports or carbon dioxide emissions despite the construction of approximately 37,000 turbines.
Dwight said nine jobs were lost for every four green energy jobs created in Spain, and imports of foreign oil increased due to the need to have a backup system when wind turbines are not producing power. He also said turbines produce a danger to birds and bats, require the clear-cutting of forest, and have adverse effects on human and animal health due to sleep deprivation from turbine noise.
Dwight said almost 100 percent of Maine's energy is produced in the United States or Canada, and that 40 percent comes from renewable sources such as biomass or hydroelectric systems. He said construction of wind turbines in Maine would increase utility costs due to the need for added infrastructure and lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.
"This is a jobs export policy," Dwight said.
Peter Guldberg, president of Tech Environmental Inc. of Waltham, Mass., said sound waves produced by wind turbines dissipate or are absorbed with distance. He said that while a typical 1.5 megawatt turbine produces sound at 104 decibels, it is reduced to 45 decibels, the equivalent of a typical neighborhood, within 1,000 feet of the turbine.
Guldberg said sound studies look at maximum power levels, an uncertainty factor, and low-frequency tones. He said a study of the Cape Wind project, which proposes placing 130 turbines in Nantucket Sound, determined that it would be below the threshold for human hearing and background noise on the coast.
Kirk Nadeau, president of Kean Project Engineering of Turner, is proposing the construction of three 1.5 megawatt turbines on Streaked Mountain in Buckfield. He said the turbines would produce an average of one megawatt per hour and the energy savings would result in an effect similar to reforestation to offset the permanent change to three acres on the mountain.
On Tuesday, the Buckfield selectmen accepted a citizen petition seeking a 180-day moratorium on wind power development, and the matter will be scheduled for a vote at a special town meeting or referendum at the polls. Nadeau said the project is on hold and no impact studies will be done until the outcome of the vote.
"The first approach for us is community involvement," Nadeau said. "When we have public support, we'll move forward."
Andy Novey, project director with Patriot Renewables of Quincy, Mass., said nine to 11 turbines totaling 18 to 20 megawatts are proposed for the western ridgeline of Spruce Mountain in Woodstock. Novey said the company has done several studies to determine the impact on wildlife and consulted with state and federal agencies on noise, shadow flicker, runoff and other potential issues.
Novey said he is scheduled to go before the Woodstock Planning Board on Nov. 10 to seek a permit for the project.
The forum was sponsored by the Western Maine Economic Development Council, Central Maine Power Co., Healthy Oxford Hills, the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce, Sustainable Oxford Hills and the Western Maine Mountain Alliance.