FREEDOM – The planning board is scheduled to resume this week its review of an application for a wind turbine farm on Beaver Ridge.
The board is to meet at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday at the town office.
“We still have a lot more to do,” said Nancy Bailey-Farrar, the board’s chairwoman, following last week’s marathon session.
Portland-based Competitive Energy Services, LLC hopes to construct three electricity generating wind turbines on Beaver Ridge. The estimated $10 million project includes three 260 foot towers, each of which would hold a 12-by-12-foot nacelle, which contains the turbine generator, and three 130 foot blades.
According to Competitive Energy Services’ calculations, the turbines would produce up to 10 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year; enough to power up to 2,000 homes.
The energy company has a long-term lease with Craneland Farm owners Ronald and Susan Price to build the towers on their property.
While 200 residents signed a petition in May supporting the project and a non-binding town vote in June favored the turbines by a 56-25 margin, abutting property owners have raised concerns about plummeting property values, noise, and abridged property owner rights as secondary roads are widened to deliver the turbines. The project has spawned sometimes heated exchanges at town meetings since the Competitive Energy Services first submitted its application in March.
Last week the board began the process of reviewing the application to determine whether the project met standards spelled out in the town ordinance. The board met for three hours on Nov. 29, and reviewed criteria in a number of areas, from water runoff to wastewater management.
This is the first commercial project the board has ever had to review, Bailey-Farrar said. The town has hired attorney Bill Kelley to advise the board on correct procedure.
“We have to take time to do this right,” Bailey-Farrar said following last week’s meeting.
If the project, as spelled out in the application, fails to meet any one of the town’s standards, the entire application must be denied and resubmitted, which would essentially mean starting the process over.
Competitive Energy Services hopes to have a decision on its application this month.
The board opened last week’s meeting by granting Competitive Energy a number of waivers. The board agreed with the company that it did not need to file plans for wastewater management (because there will be no bathrooms); storm water control (because the project includes no additional paving); phosphorus control (because the turbines will produce no emissions); or public use (because the site will continue to be private property).
The board decided against acting on the company’s request for a permit extension. The town’s ordinance requires that at least 30 percent of an approved project be completed within one year, but competitive energy has estimated it could take as long as two years to construct the turbines. The turbine supplier has a 12-month backlog of orders, said Richard Silkman, a partner at Competitive Energy Services.
But the only way to meet the company’s request is a vote at town meeting, Kelley said.
“It’s enforcement. I don’t think you have jurisdiction over that section [of the ordinance] at all,” he said.
The board unanimously determined the turbines would have no effect on air quality, water quality or natural resources and that the beacon mandated by Federal Aviation Administration would not adversely impact neighbors.
The board spent more time considering how the project would affect neighbors.
For instance, the company will have to upgrade a portion of Sibly Road, which connects to Price’s property, to get the giant turbines on-site.
During last month’s public hearing, abutters voiced fears of the road being widened and trees on their property being cut to accommodate the shipments. Silkman assured the board the road would be improved to town standards.
Abutters also have expressed concern that the turbines may exceed the maximum 55 decibels spelled out in the noise ordinance.
Competitive Energy Services hired Anthony Rogers, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to study the project and he assured the turbines would fall within the noise limit.
By Craig Crosby
Staff Writer, Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel
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