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Phillips voters mull wind-energy ordinance

PHILLIPS – How close should a wind turbine be to a home?

This is one of the main questions addressed by an ordinance on wind energy facilities that goes before voters at 6:30 tonight in the Phillips town office.

The document, if approved, could decide how, where and if wind turbines are developed in the town.

The town Planning Board based the ordinance in many cases on a combination of existing regulations in Maine and across the country, according to Dain Trafton, board member.

For example, the state restricts how the visual landscape is effected by wind energy projects.

Placement of turbines near recognized visual landmarks, such as Mt. Blue, or protected environmental sites is controlled by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Both the town Select Board and Planning Board have approved the ordinance. Required public hearings have been held and, if approved, it will take effect immediately.

No developers have submitted requests for permits to place wind turbines in the town, according to Trafton. In order to keep interested developers from influencing the process, he said, board members wanted to pass an ordinance before any wind energy companies expressed an interest.

Trafton said the town’s ordinance is “innovative” when dealing with the issues of noise and setbacks.

Setbacks are the required distance between a turbine and the closest residence.

The town ordinance uses data on how far noise travels to establish its setbacks. It is based on how quickly sound dissipates over distance.

Different models of wind turbines produce different amounts of noise, Trafton said, and the ordinance aims at encouraging developers to choose the quietest models.

There is concern that turbines can hurt people’s health by creating too much noise, Trafton said. “If you don’t get that distance right, you’re going to cause sleep deprivation.”

There is a stipulation in the ordinance, however, that allows neighbors affected by a turbine to waive certain protections.

This waiver clause mainly deals with surrendering setback protections related to noise and shadow flicker, which is the shadow created by rotating turbine blades.

To view a copy of the ordinance, visit www.phillipsmaine.com.