PLYMOUTH – The effectiveness of the town’s wind energy bylaw was called into question Tuesday night and may be revised, possibly in keeping with the state’s draft guidelines for setbacks between wind turbines and neighborhoods.
The bylaw was one of several issues discussed at length during Tuesday night’s Wind 101 Forum at Town Hall with presenters David McGlinchey, from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, and Megan Amsler, executive director of the advocacy group Cape & Islands Self-Reliance.
While Planning Board Chairman Marc Garrett said he agrees it needs to be revised, he doesn’t agree that the bylaw isn’t working, because wind turbine projects are being closely scrutinized publicly on a case-by-case basis and flaws are being identified.
“We understand the bylaw has to be amended,” he said. “I think there is a will here for the community to amend and modify the bylaw, and I think it should happen, but I think one of the key factors that we have to understand is that the bylaw is allowing the process to take place and for both the proponents and opponents of these projects to come forward and raise credible arguments to decision-makers.”
A group of about 30 people turned out for this introduction to wind energy and review of the challenges to the placement of wind turbines in communities.
There are red herrings out there, McGlinchey said, but there are also real impacts and real benefits. The major issues he noted are noise, health concerns, the economic impact, and the effects on wildlife and the environment, health and safety.
The most significant concern related to economic impact is property values.
McGlinchey said a study out of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a government-sponsored research center, found that there’s no statistically significant relationship between wind power development and property values.
“What it told us was that there is no universal identifiable trend,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that it could never happen that a wind turbine development could impact our property,
However, he said, the study shows there is an identifiable dip between the proposal of a wind power project and actual construction. Some impacts, he acknowledged, require more research, although there’s also no scientific support for the notion that wind turbines result in what’s called wind turbine syndrome.
To Lynn Munoz, it doesn’t make sense that having a wind turbine in your neighborhood would not have a negative impact on property values, and she’s not comforted by so-called scientific proof that wind turbines will not negatively impact one’s health.
“I’m concerned, as someone who might have a wind turbine close to her home, that there needs to be more research and we’re making decisions that could potentially have an impact on people’s lives and health,” she said.
All wind turbines vibrate in the wind, Amsler said. They all make noise. They have impacts that many people consider to be negative. What’s needed, she said, is to make informed decisions, to set an example of what might be considered to be proper siting of wind turbines, making us of “good” wind.
“We’ve never really had to wrap our minds around this,” she added. “We never had to make decisions like these.”
Garrett said the Planning Board does not have information on what constitutes good wind or any other data available and requested that Amsler make her information available through the town’s Energy Committee. “We as boards do not have that information at our fingertips,” he said. “It would be very helpful in evaluating individual projects.” Amsler said she would also be willing to meet with the Planning Board.
McGlinchey and others at the Manomet Center are working on a website offering answers to frequently asked questions about wind power. While examples of poorly sited turbines make the news, he said there are many examples of well-planned wind turbines that mesh nicely with local communities.
“You get there by examining relevant issues and having a well thought out discussion about those relevant issues, and then you can get to a place where you have an appropriate site,” he said.