RUMFORD — Selectmen took a Dixfield businessman up Thursday night on an offer to share his expertise on wind farms in the board’s efforts to develop a wind ordinance.
The board also accepted Tom Powell’s advice to meet with a wind developer to determine what’s palatable in a wind ordinance. Town Manager Carlo Puiia was asked to schedule those meetings.
Powell claimed he had the insight selectmen need because he works in the wind industry and has helped build 100- to 175-tower wind farms across the nation.
Earlier in the meeting, selectmen took another whack at determining a shadow flicker standard.
However, Selectman Jeremy Volkernick quickly motioned to use the shadow flicker standard from the proposed ordinance defeated in November, instead of language in the state planning office template that the board previously accepted using as a base.
It was seconded, and then Puiia read the language.
Among other things, it would limit a wind developer’s turbines to producing no more than 10 hours annually of shadow flicker and outright ban sunlight glinting off turbine blades.
After the board voted to allow Powell to speak, as he isn’t a Rumford resident, Powell said the state planning wind ordinance model doesn’t provide any leverage for towns against wind developers.
“Flicker is a real thing and flicker can be controlled, and you’re concerned that shadow flicker from a tower could be reflected into a driver on Route 2,” he said.
Powell said flicker is easily controlled simply by reprogramming the rotation of turbine towers.
“You can request that no flicker be cast on Route 2, because it would be a safety hazard to all vehicles, and it isn’t but for a brief distance,” he said.
Venturing further into the defeated ordinance, which required a 4,000-foot setback, he said that was too much.
“I think to move that ordinance along and have a chance at having something to present to your townspeople, I would recommend 2,500 feet and verbiage that said ‘without an easement or an abutting landowner signing off on that,’” he said.
“The aggravating factor here is people putting up six, eight, 10 or 12 towers,” Powell said. “Most of us don’t even consider those as wind farms. It’s more of an annoyance on the wind than it is as a power generator.”
He said the board should have learned from the Fox Islands wind project that siting turbine towers 2,500 feet from an abutting landowner “would have been a good idea.”
Powell also recommended they add language requiring a wind developer to conduct a water aquifer study and testing of wells prior to any blasting work.
“Those are the kind of things I’d recommend to deviate from the state ordinance and to inject your shadow flicker standard that shadow flicker can’t go onto major highways, and if it is, then it’s up to (the developer) to rectify the problem and limit that by adjusting the rotation on those turbines,” he said.
“On the 2,500 foot setback, I think it would be irresponsible to allow those towers to be built within 2,500 feet of an occupied dwelling first of all, but I would stretch it out to an abutting landowner who has to agree to a tower being within 2,500 feet from his property line. Otherwise, he’s going to get problems, I guarantee it.”
Powell also said language should be added to affirm to wind developers that existing recreational opportunities like hunting, snowmobiling or skiing at Black Mountain aren’t compromised by placement of wind turbines.
He also suggested they require developers to place adjacent wind farms at least 1,000 feet apart.
“You should put something in there to give the town some avenue or set a limit on the number of towers,” Powell said.
“Last thing, fire is a real concern with wind towers. Turbines generate tremendous heat.”
He suggested they include language dealing with that, which is something the board hadn’t yet considered.
After more discussion, the board split 2-2 on Volkernick’s motion, with Chairman Brad Adley and Selectman Mark Belanger dissenting, and Volkernick and Selectman Greg Buccina voting yes.
The tie vote defeated the motion, prompting Buccina to argue they can't create an ordinance with a splintered board.
Selectman Jeff Sterling, who has consistently voted with Belanger and Adley on wind ordinance issues, was absent. He is still recovering from injuries from a car accident last month.
Selectmen later agreed to meet with Powell and the wind industry.