Board tackles wind blade shadow flicker standard, safety setbacks

RUMFORD — In their ongoing effort to retrofit a state wind ordinance template to local needs, selectmen Thursday night generated plenty of discussion on the issues of shadow flicker, safety setbacks and decommissioning, but few certainties.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Andrew Fisk of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection answers a question about decommissioning requirements for wind developers at Thursday night's wind ordinance workshop by Rumford selectmen.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rumford Selectman Mark Belanger, left, listens as Selectman Greg Buccina reads a section on decommissioning standards from Oakfield's wind ordinance at Thursday night's workshop to develop a wind ordinance for Rumford.

In concluding the more than two-hour meeting, Selectmen Jeff Sterling, Brad Adley, Mark Belanger and Greg Buccina tasked each other with determining key points that should be in the decommissioning section.

They would then review those points at their next workshop and determine what to include in the ordinance.

They also agreed to have town attorney Thomas Carey determine whether town law would supersede Maine Department of Environmental Protection permitting rules requiring a decommissioning bond from a developer.

That issue came up when Neil Kiely, director of New England development for Boston-based wind energy company First Wind, asked Andrew Fisk of MDEP if it was statutorily possible in Maine to enter into an agreement with one bonding authority if Rumford came up with its own bonding requirement and that was different than DEP's rule.

The issue was avoiding the effect of double jeopardy and no one really had an answer, although Fisk said one entity or the other would execute the bond.

Other decommissioning requirements raised were ensuring that developers restored turbine sites to pre-development conditions after removing the equipment, when developers should have the required amount of money to decommission a site, and who and what determines when a wind farm reaches the decommissioning stage.

Albert Aniel of Mexico also suggested that selectmen consider getting decommissioning money up front from developers to protect the town should the developers go bankrupt.

Safety setbacks were the only thing that got settled, although no votes were taken. Selectmen generally agreed to follow DEP's requirement that the distance to the property line be 150 percent of the maximum turbine blade height.

What to do about turbine blade shadow flicker — the alternating light intensity produced by a wind turbine as the rotating blade casts shadows on the ground and stationary objects — was left mostly undecided.

Some selectmen wanted to go with language and numbers proposed in the Bethel regional draft wind ordinance. That would limit exposure to shadow flicker to no more than 30 hours a year from homes and property lines, and no more than 10 hours annually from roadways.

Adley suggested checking with the state transportation department to learn if it has rules regarding shadow flicker and roads after learning that DEP doesn't. Fisk said DEP only uses the 30-hour rule.

But when asked if any Maine wind farms are exceeding that, Fisk said no.

“The actual data coming in is that it's much lower,” he said. “Sometimes it's only two hours and sometimes it's in the mid 20s.”

He suggested the board get worst-case numbers and include further assumptions in the ordinance.

Although the agenda stated Fisk would do presentations on each topic, selectmen only had him fielding questions, both from them and the audience.

In the end, Adley suggested going with DEP rules on some topics, because they were more comprehensive.

“The one thing we can do, and I'm not advocating it, but we could just go with the DEP decommissioning standards,” he said.

To which, Sterling agreed, but Belanger and Buccina didn't chime in.

They then decided to revisit decommissioning and shadow flicker at the next workshop.

“I'm not ready to make decisions yet,” Adley said.

“I don't think I'm ready to go line by line yet,” Sterling added.

Buccina accepted that and then reiterated that whatever they decide, they should remember that ordinances are designed to protect a town's residents into the future.

Belanger stressed that the ordinance should also regulate development and not ban it outright, but be simple enough so that citizens can understand it.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Mike DiCenso's picture

?

What has Rumford found out about the legality of the decommissioning fund? The wind companies are LLC and that is like the "expedited wind law" which we all see is a debacle. Does an LLC even have to use the decom fund after it has been set aside? Remember the Portland lawyers will be there to keep the wind pushers from as many obligations as possible. Lincoln had zoning which was deliberately ignored by the developer with the help of their lawyers. What makes Rumford think it will be treated better? I think the board is trying to do something sensible but you are not dealing with an ethical honest company. The home size turbines must be separate from the megalith industrial size monsters with the regs. The Lincoln turbines are going up and they are larger than the promo pics showed. The mess is spread out and I am convinced windsprawl is a bad thing for anywhere in Maine. Good luck Rumford and keep on hashing it out. The DEP is no help at all. LURC either.

Alice Barnett's picture

LURC DEP

LURC and DEP want public input. Problem is; people feel in adequate around all this industry language . The public can call or e-mail these agencies with just a complaint about the visuals of turbines from Mount Blue State Park,.or their own back yard. State where you live and recreate and how the problems are personal. A big problem in the river valley is the media has not made the public aware of the multiple projects projected. Record Hill, Black Mountain, twin peaks, Saddleback ridge, Colonel Holman, Canton mountain, Spruce Mountain. Everywhere you drive in the river valley; you will see, hear and feel these generators.

Alan Woods's picture

DEP Data? Let's see it!

So, Mr. Fisk, you state that DEP applies the 30-hour flicker rule. That is, that shadow flicker must be limited to no more than 30 hours annually as measured from homes and property lines. Correct?

Further, you state that, and I quote:
“The actual data coming in is that it's much lower,” he said. “Sometimes it's only two hours and sometimes it's in the mid 20s.”

So my question is: what is the source of your data? Are you serious? Have you ever been to Mars Hill? Have you ever been to Hot Brook Pond? Since you have "data" please enlighten us. Let's see that data so we can evaluate it.

Dan McKay's picture

Opening up the meeting to

Opening up the meeting to allow the public to speak as topics were discussed was a magnificent move by the board. We all learned . Best educational forum on wind I have ever attended. I highly recommend anyone curious about wind turbines attend these meetings. The board will be visiting Mars Hill Wind project prior to the next meeting. They should be able to provide us with interesting observations.

Alice Barnett's picture

feel it

feel the vibrations of 30 foot bolts into the earth. hug the turbine

Alice Barnett's picture

safety set backs

Stated; selectmen agree on safety setbacks at 150% of turbine blade height. about 630 feet from turbine.
Several audience members offered to bring proof that wind turbine scatter debris is in the 1300 - 1400 feet from turbine. A google search will enlighten people on the reality of what area an insurance company will make these developers close off to the public.
The meetings in Rumford are bringing to light some of the in-adequacies of DEP's version of wind industry impact standards.
DEP does not mention road flicker issues.
DEP does not address RED STROBING LIGHT at night.
DEP's Andy Fisk said DEP used World wide standards as their basis on most of the safety requirements.
Any one reading about wind industry knows it is failing, World Wide.
Wake-up America.

No Flicker

If First Wind would consider the new jet turbine wind towers which are built in the US. But they want to stick with cheap foreign technology. Plenty of additional benefits to consider Mr. Kiely. It's unfortunate that First Wind won't reconsider this. Thank you Mr. Belanger and Buccina for not chiming in. Protection and regulation without banning. Maybe the town should build their own and put on grid themselves that way we make some monies by selling back excess we don't use for our own community.

Dan McKay's picture

watchdog, you have a hydro, a

watchdog, you have a hydro, a co-gen, and a gas plant operating now. Why the heck would you put up these crazy wind mills that wouldn't be paid for even in your grandchildren's lifetime.

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