The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has asked the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative to submit a revised protocol for the operation of the three turbines on Vinalhaven. The protocol could include slowing down the turbines during certain times to mitigate the noise level, said General Manager Charles “Chip” Farrington.
The DEP’s Nov. 23 letter to the electric cooperative asked FIW to alter its operation under specific conditions; the DEP’s action was based on a turbine noise complaint filed in July. The DEP noise level limits are 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night.
Some residents that live near the turbines submitted complaints to the DEP about the noise. The group Fox Island Wind Neighbors said recently neighbors’ lives and property values have been severely impacted by turbine noise exceeding state law since the wind farm was commissioned in November 2009.
Farrington said the DEP’s letter and the noise issue were discussed at the Nov. 23 meeting of the electric cooperative. He said it was time to bring the conflict to a close rather than arguing about the methodology of determining the decibel level from the turbines.
“Although the co-op and FIW recognize that there are disagreements, between the methods used by the sound experts involved with the issues, we welcome the DEP’s effort to finally resolve this issue for all stakeholders,” Farrington said in a news release. “We want to be good neighbors, successfully address these conditions, and bring this matter to a conclusion.”
Farrington said the next step for the electric cooperative will be to submit a revised protocol for the DEP’s review and approval by Jan. 23, 2011.
The electric cooperative board said the DEP’s determination strikes a reasonable balance between addressing the concerns of the neighbors who filed the complaint and the expectation of approximately 1,800 ratepayers on North Haven and Vinalhaven that they will continue to reap the full economic benefits of this community-owned wind project.
In a Nov. 23 interview, Cheryl Lindgren said the neighbors group filed a second noise complaint on Nov. 19 because the organization was not hearing from the DEP. Cheryl Lindgren said they wanted to make sure the DEP knows this is an ongoing problem. Art Lindgren also said measurements from early November show readings of 47.5 decibels, which is higher than the 45-decibel nighttime level.
On Nov. 24, Cheryl Lindgren said the DEP’s decision validates what residents have known for the past year. She said on one level, the DEP letter is comforting, but this is just the beginning of the process.
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