FARMINGTON – Tom Eastler waited while a resident voiced his concerns on a law seeking to regulate wind energy projects in Farmington.
They had gathered for one of several recent meetings and public hearings tied to wind-energy ordinances that Franklin County towns plan to present to voters at upcoming annual town meetings.
After the Farmington resident asked for stricter limits on noise created by wind turbines, Eastler used a sound-pressure meter to defend the proposed law.
Eastler, who is on the town Planning Board that wrote the ordinance, used his voice and crinkled paper to show how the device works. Then he said their rather subdued debate had reached decibel levels that are close to the law’s guidelines on turbine noise.
“The room has been less than 50 decibels,” he said, comparing it to the 60-decibel limit on wind turbine noise reaching the closest neighbor’s property line.
Eastler said he didn’t think it was enough noise to bother neighbors.
But the resident, Burt Knapp, questioned comparing voices and crinkling paper to wind turbine noise, and maintained that Farmington’s proposed wind-energy law didn’t provide enough protection for its residents.
Debate over turbine noise and other wind-energy issues is expected to continue in Farmington and New Vineyard, where town officials have prepared ordinances to regulate wind energy within their respective borders.
Voters will consider the proposals at annual town meetings in March and April, according to town officials. Selectmen and town officials plan to review public comments and possibly make revisions before final versions are presented to voters.
Temple town officials plan to ask voters at their annual town meeting next month to consider adopting a moratorium on wind-energy projects, according to town officials.
Some town officials and residents view these ordinances as the only local control over wind-energy development. Projects must meet state guidelines but they can also be forced to meet local standards if towns pass ordinances.
Voters in Carthage, for example, rejected attempts to pursue a wind-energy ordinance. Patriot Renewables LLC is currently seeking permits to build 12 wind turbines on Saddleback Mountain in Carthage, and the project and most of the process is being regulated by the state, town selectmen have said.
Knapp, 63, who lives at Porter Hill Farm in Farmington, said he is worried about where turbines would be allowed in Farmington without a town ordinance.
“We have open space near us, and I’m concerned that someone might want to put a turbine up near us,” Knapp said, reached by phone after the hearing.
Knapp’s main concern is turbine noise bothering neighboring property owners. He said Farmington’s law should reflect other town’s that used sound engineers to establish strict noise limits.
Eastler told Knapp that stricter noise limits would basically make it impossible to build wind-energy systems in town.
Stricter noise limits than Farmington’s are not “realistic” and they discourage wind-energy projects, Eastler said.
Farmington’s ordinance would address many different factors involved in wind-energy, according to Eastler, who is an environmental geology professor at University of Maine at Farmington.
Eastler said he is an advocate for alternative fuels and is involved in wind-energy studies in town, including a study that places a monetary value on wind energy produced near property he owns.
While Eastler said he believes the turbine noise rules are appropriate, wind-energy technology and research is constantly progressing and the town ordinance process allows for changes.
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