I would like to thank the hundreds of Fairhaven residents who felt strongly enough about the concerns related to the Little Bay wind turbine farm to put their names on a petition asking for a more in-depth study of the project. As Fairhaven continues to struggle with the wind turbine issue, these registered voters are voicing their concerns and are in agreement that more time is needed to look into the issues of noise and setbacks.
Guided by our selectmen, the town is moving toward approving a land lease allowing construction of a wind farm that will tower two of New England’s largest industrial wind turbines over a quiet bayside neighborhood and bike trail.
Town Meeting members, our elected officials, and town manager have an obligation to protect the quality of life of those who will be directly affected by the sound that these power plants in the sky generate. The protection of the residents of the Mack’s Soda Bar, Wood School and Weeden Road areas and those who enjoy the serenity of the Phoenix Bike Trail cannot be disregarded.
Information obtained from other communities that are similar in nature to Fairhaven must be looked at, as well as model state building codes regarding noise. In Mars Hill, Maine, residents who live 2,000 feet from the turbines cannot go outdoors. A number of proponents continue to downplay the noise issue by making comparisons with the Hull turbines. These turbines are located near areas that have a fairly high level of noise. To compare Hull with the Little Bay area is disingenuous.
Wind turbine noise is perceived as more annoying than other noise sources. Ten percent of people are annoyed by traffic noise at 60 decibels, yet the same amount are annoyed by turbine noise at 36 decibels. The noise from a wind turbine is constant and considered one of the most annoying. Before the turbine project goes forward, an independent sound study must be made, not a sound study commissioned by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the developer.
A noise study was never completed as part of the feasibility study. MTC, a quasi-government agency, has been working with the town on the project. MTC works with communities on renewable energy projects.
In 13 communities, MTC obtained the services of the University of Massachusetts to conduct a site analysis. In each of these towns, the following language was used: “A rule of thumb can be used: To minimize possible noise impacts, site wind turbines at least three times the blade tip height from residences.” In Fairhaven, MTC did not use UMass to do the site analysis or feasibility study. The agencies they contracted recommended a 600-foot setback to the nearest residence.
The town Planning Board has adopted these setbacks. Ironically, these setbacks fit the Little Bay site and the developer’s plan perfectly. If UMass had done the study, it would have recommended a 1,200-foot setback as it has in other Massachusetts communities. In my opinion, MTC contracted with another agency to get the setback results it desired.
The setback of 1,200 feet must be adhered to. The residents of our town deserve no less than those of Brewster, Chatham, Cohasset, Dartmouth, Gloucester, Harwich, Hawley, Lakeville, Lenox, Quincy, Scituate, Tisbury and Wellfleet.
I ask Fairhaven’s Town Meeting members, town manager and elected officials to make a sound decision on wind power for our town.
By John Methia
9 May 2007
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