CHARLTON – Plans to install three wind turbines on swaths of wooded landscape overlooking the town center are generating protests from residents and will be the topic of upcoming public hearings.
The two separate projects, undergoing site plan review, place two 330-foot-tall turbines 780 feet apart on Overlook Masonic Health Center property, and one about one mile away on the hilltop campus of Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Residents challenged the Overlook plan at a March 16 Planning Board public hearing.
“This is the center of town where you’re putting it. In it you have a school and the only athletic fields this town has. It’s the only place in town where kids and adults have a quality-of-life thing,” John Perkins said.
The Planning Board’s authority is limited to upholding regulations for the turbine site design, acoustic output and shadow flicker. The review is conducted in a series of meetings that include public hearings.
The second public hearing for the Bay Path plan is set for 7:40 p.m. Wednesday.
Residents attending initial hearings on both projects brought out concerns regarding the sights, sounds and quality of life in town center and beyond.
The turbine planned for the northern edge of the Bay Path property abuts only the school and wooded hillside, while the Overlook’s twin turbines will be within 1,000 feet of homes and about 2,000 feet from recreation facilities and an elementary school.
Sustainable Energy Developments Inc. was hired for both projects and presented the Overlook plan to a crowded room at the March 16 hearing.
Questions and protests focused on sound that is detectable and sound that is not.
The company presented a study that covered 33 properties on Burlingame Road, Flint Road, Gillespie Road and Masonic Home Road. Included were residences, Charlton Elementary School, the public library and the youth athletic fields.
When operating at its maximum speed of 26 miles per hour, turbine-generated sound of 35 to 55 decibels fell below the state Department of Environmental Protection’s noise impact regulations.
The highest level of sound from the twin turbines, it was reported, would be comparable to a dishwasher running in the next room.
Kathleen Gillespie’s home is 1,000 feet from one proposed tower, and Charlton Elementary, where she teaches, is 2,000 feet from a tower.
“Wind turbines produce infrasound that produces physical ailments as well as learning disabilities. I am concerned for my own family and the children at the elementary school,” she said.
Infrasound is low-frequency sound that is below the human ear’s range of hearing. Although the bass waves are not heard, claims have been made that they produce physical and psychological ailments.
“We do not want this in the center of town. I’m calling on Masonic Home, as good neighbors, to put this on the shelf until more research is done,” Heritage Country Club owner Bill Plante said.
State wind turbine regulations do not address infrasound. The DEP and Department of Public Health are convening an expert panel to explore this and other potential health impacts of wind turbines, DEP spokesman Edmund J. Coletta said Friday. Information regarding the study and its expected duration, he said, will be available in a few weeks.
Regarding the sights, Sustainable Energy provided computer-generated images of the turbines on the horizon from several vantage points.
Local historian and Planning Board member William O. Hultgren called the 190-foot blade spans towering above the trees a visual intrusion.
Ms. Gillespie also questioned the motive for situating the turbines downhill and 1,900 feet from the Overlook residents they will supply.
Dave Strong, of Sustainable Energy, said his company first considers the location of residences and wetlands. Next, they review buildability and cost. The last consideration, he said, is wind resource. With all matters considered, he said, they chose the optimum site.
The quest for wind-generated energy began for Bay Path in 2007. Administrators hired Sustainable Energy to conduct the feasibility studies and develop the plan to install a PowerWind 900-kilowatt turbine.
Bay Path Superintendent-Director David P. Papagni said the turbine is expected to save 80 percent of the school’s $300,000 annual electricity costs.
George Senerth, vice president of project management, said wind power is also sought by Overlook to reduce power costs that average $1 million annually.
The potential shadow flicker caused by sunlight on spinning blades is among the Planning Board topics for its next public hearing on the Overlook project set for April 20.
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