December 2, 2010

Brewster takes time to probe impact of turbines

By Doug Fraser, Cape Cod Times, 2 December 2010

BREWSTER – The town planning board has decided it needs more time to find answers to questions posed at a recent public hearing on two proposed municipal wind turbines.

Acting on a request from the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative, the board voted Wednesday night to continue the public hearing that began Nov. 10 until Jan. 12.

The electric cooperative formed a few years ago to help municipalities overcome capital expense involved in renewable energy projects. It also aimed to spread the benefits of such projects to towns that may not be able or willing to develop renewable energy projects on town property.

The electric cooperative has proposed spending $10 million to purchase and maintain two large turbines in town. The windmills would stand in an industrial park off Freeman’s Way and measure 410-feet tall to the topmost blade tip. Revenue from a 20-year lease of the town-owned land as well as energy savings for power provided to municipal departments would total $3.6 million for the town, according to the electric cooperative.

Critics at the public hearing last month objected to the size and possible health impact from shadows and noise generated by the big turbine blades.

Proponents say the turbines would be located in an area voters set aside for windmills and would be at least 1,800 feet from the nearest home and more than 3,000 feet from most residential dwellings.

One of the top unanswered questions is the turbines’ potential impact on a nearby radio station. Classical radio station WFCC leases space in the industrial park and its signal emanates from a cell tower on town-owned property about 600 feet from the nearest proposed turbine.

At the November hearing, Gregory Bone, a general partner in Cape Cod Broadcasting, which owns the station, raised the issue of signal interference.

In a telephone interview Wednesday, Bone said his technical staff has raised the possibility that the turbines might affect signal clarity, which his listeners wouldn’t tolerate.

“Classical (music) audiences are the least forgiving,” Bone said. “Any interference or noise is a losing situation for us.”

Town Administrator Charles Sumner said he has offered to meet with Bone to answer questions and share the opinions of the town’s consultants who concluded the turbines presented no risk to the radio signal’s integrity. Bone said Wednesday that he wants his staff to review the findings of the town’s consultants before any meeting takes place.

Once the towers are up, Bone said, there is little that can be done to rectify interference. “With considerable unknowns, our objective is to protect WFCC,” he said.

The planning board is also seeking information on several other potential impacts from the proposed turbines, including property values, legal concerns and health effects linked to sound from the renewable-energy project.

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