Writing wind-power rules topic at forum

AUBURN — Even though the bulk of all wind power regulations at the town level are pretty much the same, they can differ in big ways.

Panelists at a planning conference Thursday afternoon at Auburn's Hilton Garden Inn reviewed three ordinances designed to put limits on power-generating wind turbines. They looked at ordinances adopted by the town of Phillips, a measure being considered in the town of Dixfield and one being drawn up by Bethel and its neighbors.

About 120 town officials, managers and selectmen from across central Maine attended the daylong convention hosted by the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments.

AVCOG planner John Maloney noted that most of the officials attending stayed for the afternoon session.

"This should be a good item," Maloney said. "Most times, people leave right after lunch."

Maloney said the discussion wasn't a debate about the merits of wind power, but about how towns have tried to regulate them.

The state's model ordinance suggests limiting noise generated by a wind turbine to 45 decibels at night and 55 during the day when it's measured at nearby residences.

But Dain Trafton, Planning Board member for the town of Phillips, said their ordinance went deeper.

"There is a great deal of controversy about noise, and we were not happy with any of the other solutions that were presented," he said. The town worked with an acoustic engineer to draw up rules that change based on individual turbines. Louder turbines need to be farther back.

"This approach benefits the manufacturer of quieter turbines," Trafton said.

Jim Doar, town manager of Bethel, said he has been working with the towns of Newry, Woodstock, Greenwood and Hanover to come up with regulations that suit all of them.

"It doesn't make much sense for Newry to have a limit of 35 decibels if Bethel builds a 65-decibel turbine within town limits that's going to affect Newry's residents," Doar said. He said he hoped work on that regional plan would be finished by the end of the year, in time to be voted on during next year's town meetings.

Kay Rand, of Bernstein Shur Government Solutions, cautioned town officials not to be too strict. Rand represents wind energy company FirstWind, but said that was not her purpose Thursday.

One section of a measure adopted in Rumford limits low frequency sound to 20 decibels.

"But a wind power manufacturer pointed out that they just cannot comply with that," Rand said. "At 20 decibels, the wind was that loud by itself. Wind power strong enough to turn a turbine was already that loud."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Mike DiCenso's picture

FoulWind LLC

Who does CandyAnne want to believe, the sound eng. from FirstWind? C'mon, really. This company wants any zoning ignored or rewritten, the DEP standards loosened up so far they might as well not exist, wetlands protection made nonexistent and LURC forgotten about. Why wouldn't any town look upon them as suspicious? The oil argument is silly. I came up I95 today at 75 mph and I must have been passed 50 times. If people were so concerned about saving oil they would slow down. If we all went the limit it would save 100 times more at least than the IMAGINARY savings from peppering Maine with thousands of wind turbines. That is preposterous. Denmark has increased its coal use every year since installing 6000 turbines. Wind energy is for the classroom. In the real world it is just a distraction from real solutions, and there is a cabal of opportunists who instead of robbing us with a gun and knife , will use lawyers and pencils to take our tax dollars.

Victoria Fimiani's picture

lol

Kay Rand, of Bernstein Shur Government Solutions, cautioned town officials not to be too strict. Rand represents wind energy company FirstWind, but said that was not her purpose Thursday.

One section of a measure adopted in Rumford limits low frequency sound to 20 decibels.

"But a wind power manufacturer pointed out that they just cannot comply with that," Rand said. "At 20 decibels, the wind was that loud by itself. Wind power strong enough to turn a turbine was already that loud."

^^^Oh yes, Kay, we'll be sure not to be too strict. LOL, you represent FirstWind and you expect us to trust that you're looking out for OUR best interest? Any sound studies would account for ambient noise and would take care of the 20 dB caused by wind.

I hope the towns hire their own acoustic engineer, one that is not tied up with wind interests. The low frequency noise is very important to take into consideration and is not currently taken into consideration by the state.

Alice Barnett's picture

20 decibels

but that is tha ambience of western Maine mountains most nights.
The wind as a spirit running through the trees; is a far cry from the mechanical sound of the turbine.

Lisa Lindsay's picture

There has been an acoustical

There has been an acoustical engineer who has studied Mars Hill and Freedom extensively who was at the last one or two forums held for the River Valley. You just didn't like what he said because just like in Phillips, the resulting ordinance would likely keep big wind out of Rumford.

Phillips did do a great job. They enacted a moratorium during the study and ordinance-writing phase, studied the subject in a very open way (multiple forums that anyone from the public could attend regardless of which town you live in), presented the ordinance for review, and then voted on it. They now have an ordinance which will protect their citizens. If you are a wind company, however, you're probably not going to find it inviting. MAYBE if the technology improves and the turbines are quieter, towns like Phillips will have more interest. But right now, it's buyer beware. They come in talking about one sized turbine and by the time they're done, the turbines could be quite a bit taller and noisier. It's about getting their foot in the door. Aside from the noise, there are the obvious asthetic issues and I don't blame a bucolic town like Phillips for wanting to protect their viewshed.

Lisa Lindsay's picture

Hundreds? Really

Hmmmm. Robert Rand isn't "with" Karen Pease and he is the same engineer who presented to the residents of Phillips. I guess you're not gonna give ten cheers to Phillips anymore...

My second paragraph states how Phillips conducted themselves (not sure what can be disagreed with), how they worked to protect their town (again, it's all there in the ordinance), and how wind companies change the scale of their projects after they get a foot in the door. This is well established. They've done it in every town. Look it up.

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