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Fairhaven citizens scrutinize wind proposal  

Residents speaking at a forum on wind power last night made a lot of noise about what kind of sound two proposed Little Bay wind turbines would produce.

During a sometimes chaotic meeting in a standing-room only hall, some wanted to know why a specific wind study has not been done on the project and why turbines would be erected closer to homes than what is recommended in other studies.

“We have done the studies that the town asked us to do,” said Nils Boldgen of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which has worked with the town on the project. “A noise study could be done.”

Officials also said the sound requirements would have to meet levels determined by the town’s bylaw: 60 decibels at 600 feet.

CCI Energy is proposing to erect two 400-foot wind turbines on leased town property that would help power the water treatment plant. The nearest homes would be about 750 feet away. How much would be audible at that distance wasn’t clear.

“I’m really concerned about the sound,” said Kenneth Pottell, a member of WindWise Fairhaven, which opposes the project. “Everything I read contradicts what you’re saying.”

Proponents said the turbines would produce about 40 decibels of sound, comparable to a vacuum cleaner.

Michael Gagne, an electrical engineer, pleaded with those concerned about sound to visit the wind turbines in operation in Hull or Portsmouth, R.I.

Another man asked for a hand count of how many people had visited a turbine. Only a few responded.

“You can darn well take a half-hour drive and figure it out yourself,” he said.

“You really need to go,” Mr. Gagne said.

“Would you have one in your backyard Michael,” resident Henry Ferreira asked.

“Yes I would,” Mr. Gagne answered.

Opponents at one point embarrassed officials with questions such as how close the turbines would be to the bike path extension, and WindWise member and former selectmen candidate Ann Ponichtera DeNardis posed several detailed and technical questions. A clear answer wasn’t always available, but officials said all requirements would be met.

During last night’s forum Mr. Bolgen of the MTC revisited a 2005 feasibility study for the turbines and developer James Sweeney gave a rationale for the project.

He said each tower would measure 262 feet to the hub and each rotor 269 feet in diameter. With the blades aligned vertically, the turbines would reach almost 400 feet tall. The towers would power the water treatment plant, the Department of Public Works buildings, and the senior and recreation center building. Excess electricity would be sold to the pool of electricity on the regional grid. CCI has estimated the towers could save the town at least $50,000 in electricity costs per year.

Additional revenue to the town will come from the land lease, taxes and royalties, for a total of at least $150,000 a year, Mr. Sweeney said.

Answering many questions about the project’s finances and why the town doesn’t erect its own turbines, Mr. Bolgen said that the small Fairhaven project is on the borderline for profitability and involves financial risks that the town may not want to take on, such as financing.

A private developer can benefit from federal tax credits and sell renewable energy credits to the MTC, developing the needed cash flow.

“Projects like this do require some kind of financial support,” Mr. Bolgen said.

Town Executive Secretary Jeffrey W. Osuch said a locally financed project would likely need a debt exclusion vote.

During last night’s forum, participants also raised questions about falling ice, property resale values, maintenance, wetlands and other issues.

“We won’t get approval for this unless it’s a good deal for the town,” developer Mr. Sweeney said.

Mr. Ferreira characterized the project as “grandiose” and compared it to other projects that ultimately failed, such as the Azurix sludge plant proposal six years ago.

“The developers came to our town and minimized the negative impacts,” he said. “It has the same smell as that dump project had.”

Mr. Gagne reminded Mr. Ferreira that proposals dealing with pollutants and renewable energy aren’t comparable.

“We’re dealing with wind here, Henry,” he said.

By Joao Ferreira
Standard-Times staff writer

southcoasttoday.com

5 April 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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