State regulators indicated Wednesday that they plan to pay closer attention to potential noise levels generated by wind farms proposed within the Unorganized Territory.
Members of the Land Use Regulation Commission said the state should learn from the noise concerns that have arisen since a wind farm in the Aroostook County town of Mars Hill became operational earlier this year.
LURC currently has three wind farm applications pending: a 38-turbine operation in northern Washington County and two proposals in the western Maine mountains. The Washington County proposal, located on Stetson Mountain, has been submitted by the same company that built the Mars Hill wind farm.
Some neighbors of the Mars Hill farm said they accepted the impact the nearly 400-foot-tall turbines would have on their views. But they never expected that noise from the turbines would be so loud as to disrupt sleep and affect their quality of life.
The wind farm’s operator, Evergreen Wind Power LLC, is studying the noise issues.
On Wednesday, LURC board member Stephen Wight said the commission had heard plenty of concern expressed about wind farms’ impacts on the environment and scenery. But the Mars Hill project’s noise issues were “a real surprise to everybody,” Wight said.
“We should learn from every project that goes into the state,” he said.
Current policy requires that landowners within 1,000 feet of a property be notified in order to address possible impacts. Commission member Edward Laverty suggested that LURC staff and project applicants may want to “liberally interpret” the notification laws to ensure that any affected landowners are informed because of the potential of wind noise.
Representatives for UPC Wind Management, the parent company of Evergreen Wind Power, have said that the Stetson Mountain site is ideal for a new wind farm because it is so isolated.
Stetson Mountain is a rural ridgeline that runs along Route 169 between the communities of Danforth and Springfield. The nearest residential structure – a seasonal cabin – is more than 2,500 feet from a turbine.
Additionally, UPC officials said Wednesday that the ridge already has established logging roads that provide ready access to the top and that no significant wildlife or environmental issues have been identified so far.
Dave Cowan, vice president of Environmental Affairs for UPC, said the company is now trying to get the message out about the low-impact project.
“It’s a gem of a site,” Cowan said.
LURC staff members are just beginning the formal review of the application. On Wednesday, the commission authorized the staff to set a date for a public hearing and to begin contacting potential intervenors in the review process.
UPC is seeking to rezone approximately 4,800 acres for the project. If constructed as proposed, the project would generate an estimated 57 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power roughly 27,500 homes.
Each turbine would stand roughly 400 feet tall from the base to the highest point of the rotating blades.
For more information on the Stetson Mountain or other wind farm projects, go to http://www.maine.gov/doc/lurc and click on the links at the bottom of the page.
By Kevin Miller
3 May 2007
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