A new proposal to allow land-based wind projects to be reviewed by the Cape Cod Commission will be aired at a Jan. 20 public hearing.
The first draft received substantial blowback from the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates in November. The regulations were sent back to the commission to be reworked.
The commission sought to get some parameters on the books to address land-based turbines, while the Assembly wanted a more complete and restrictive set of guidelines.
The draft sets a 65-foot height at the blade tip threshold for review and addresses four main areas: clear zones, noise, shadow flicker and decommissioning.
The full commission holds its public hearings on the proposal Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. in the Assembly Chambers, Barnstable First District Courthouse. There are technically two hearings – one to establish the threshold for review and the second to set the minimum performance standard – but both will be heard at the same time.
Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki said that the draft represents “about the most conservative regulations of wind” the commission can offer.
In talking about the draft, “conservative” was the word Niedzwiecki used most in describing the approach.
In a Jan. 11 phone interview, Niedzwiecki said that the original standards were an attempt to provide the commission with a way to address commercially-backed turbines, as the regional policy plan is silent on land-based turbines.
The New Generation Wind project in Bourne, which is proposing six large-scale turbines, tripped the Commission’s review threshold for clearing, but not for the 400-plus-foot units themselves.
The commission will also provide a bulleted list of items to be included in the technical bulletin that will guide implementation of the regulation. That was another missing element for the Assembly when the first draft was presented in November.
Among Niedzwiecki’s cautions to the Assembly in November was developing regulations that effectively banned land-based turbines on Cape. His concern was that such a move could damage political goodwill at the state level, as the governor and legislative leaders have expressed commitments to increase wind energy on the commonwealth.
The three-page draft was the subject of two joint meetings of the commission’s regulatory and planning committees, the last one on Jan. 10 resulting in the final draft.
Niedzwiecki said that those meetings were well attended, with better than half of the commission’s members in attendance and engaged in the discussion.
Municipal projects for a single turbine of 100 kilowatts or less on a single parcel would be exempt from the noise, flicker and decommissioning standards.
The proposal would establish a minimum clear area of 1.5 times the height of the turbine, or the manufacturer’s fall zone recommendation if it is greater.
Niedzwiecki said that the clear zone is starting at a conservative place and can be adjusted if necessary, based on experience.
The proposed noise standard would require turbines of 1 megawatt and above to be a minimum of 3,000 feet from the nearest “receptor” or residentially zoned parcel. Applicants can trim this distance if a required noise study determines there are minimum impacts to occupants with a reduced setback.
Also as part of the noise standard, applicants must prepare a plan that details reduced operating procedures, including decommissioning plans, to address complaints that arise after a facility goes into operation.
All turbines reviewed as a development of regional impact must also conduct a shadow flicker study for all “receptors” exposed to a combined 10 hours of flicker a year.
Niedzwiecki said that that standard represents the accumulated daily flicker of about three minutes a day. He said that exposure times can vary at different times of the year based on the position of the sun and turbine.
Under the proposal, towers that are not operational for 120 consecutive days will trigger decommissioning. It’s suggested that the executive director of the Cape Cod Commission could grant waivers “for good cause.” The regulations would also require a security be provided to cover decommissioning.
The proposal is not specific on what “security” is required, leaving wide discretion for the commission to consider what’s appropriate for different developments, Niedzwiecki said.
“We want to make sure there are viable entities behind them,” he said, adding that a project affiliated with a town would be viewed differently than a private development.
The commission’s new fee schedule will include wind energy conversion facilities, though at a reduced rate.
“We don’t want to become an economic drag on these projects,” Niedzwiecki said.
The full draft of the proposal is available at capecodcommission.org/RPP.
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