FREEDOM – Local review of a $12 million wind power proposal for Beaver Ridge is set to begin next month, coming after a planning board decision Thursday night that Competitive Energy Services’ application is complete.
The wind project was proposed in March, but CES voluntarily held off applying for permits until the town could develop an ordinance by which to evaluate it.
The ordinance was adopted earlier this summer, and an attempt to pass a six-month moratorium on wind power permits was defeated at a special town meeting last week.
Andrew Price, a partner with CES, said Friday the application includes more material than that which was presented to the town six months ago. The new ordinance has more performance standards with which the applicant must demonstrate compliance.
One key standard is that the operation must not exceed 45 decibels at the nearest existing home, and not exceed 55 decibels at the property line.
“It is a strict requirement. Forty-five decibels is a pretty low level,” Price said.
However, no major changes have been made to the plan to build three towers and turbines on the ridge. The towers will be 260 feet high, and when the turbine blades are extended vertically, they will reach 400 feet high.
The turbines are projected to produce 4.5 megawatts annually.
If approved, the three towers would be erected on land leased from Ron Price, a dairy farmer in Knox, who is also Andrew Price’s uncle.
“The basic project is the same,” the younger Price said.
The new application material makes the case that the project “conforms to the ordinance that was recently passed,” he said.
The planning board voted that the application was complete, a necessary first step for the review to begin. The review will get under way at the board’s Oct. 5 meeting, Price said.
Evaluating the noise the rotating blades – each 130 feet long – will make may prove difficult, he said. Wind power proponents describe a pulsating “whooshing” sound that can be heard standing near the base of the towers.
“When the wind is very light, the blades turn at a lower rpm and make less noise,” Price said. But on a windy day, the blades move faster and make more noise, and at the same time, background noise is
higher from the wind itself.
Though voters rejected the proposed moratorium, which proponents argued would allow for more refining of the ordinance, opposition to the project remains.
Selectman Steve Bennett, who proposed the moratorium and wants to stop the project, has suggested the committee that drafted the ordinance took its lead from CES.
Supporting that claim, he argued, is a letter written by Price, Richard Silkman and Mark Isaacson of CES to the planning board on July 7.
“A property line sound limit – day or night – that is set below 55 decibels and a sound limit at an existing residence – day or night – that is set below 45 decibels will end our consideration of wind power in Freedom,” the letter says.
The letter also notes that Freedom residents twice voted “in overwhelming support of the Beaver Ridge Wind Project.”
Price rejects Bennett’s claim that CES tried to twist the board’s arm in the ordinance development.
“I would strongly disagree with that characterization,” Price said.
The town ordinance “is not something we wrote,” he said, and is instead based on a document written by a quasi-governmental group in New York state.
Because of increased demand for wind power generation equipment, spurred in part by the expiration next year of a federal tax credit on such equipment, the cost of the project has grown from $10 million to $12 million, Price said.
If the company wins the necessary permits, it plans to wait until spring 2008 to start construction because equipment manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand.
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