BARNSTABLE – As Cape Cod towns continue to struggle with the pros and cons of wind energy, Barnstable County officials are once again taking up potential regulations for the typically contentious projects.
The proposed rules include standards for noise, clearance around the turbines, shadow flicker and other aspects of wind energy projects. In addition, the county’s legislative body, the Assembly of Delegates, will consider a 65-foot threshold that would trigger review of a wind turbine by the Cape Cod Commission.
Alternatively, the assembly could establish an ordinance that exempts from commission review wind energy projects in towns with a certified local wind bylaw, commission executive director Paul Niedzwiecki said.
The assembly’s standing committee on government regulations will hold a public hearing today on the standards and threshold.
This is not the first time the assembly has considered proposed rules for wind energy projects.
In November the county panel sent a set of rules back to the commission because they weren’t strict enough, a move that didn’t sit well with wind energy proponents. The decision may have appeased opponents of the projects but seems to have backfired for neighbors of at least one project, Niedzwiecki said.
“I don’t understand why the assembly didn’t act in November and adopt these standards,” he said. “We could always come back.”
A company called New Generation recently withdrew and refiled its plan for seven wind turbines on 373 acres in Bournedale, effectively restarting its permitting process before any countywide rules could be enacted.
The back-and-forth maneuvering on the wind energy regulations is frustrating but “part of the process,” Niedzwiecki said. “It’s like we’re ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,'” he said. “These rules are too hot, these are too cold.”
Changes in the assembly’s makeup since its last vote on the topic could mean yet another go-around before county officials agree to wind energy rules.
“In a sense we’re looking at a different kind of assembly of delegates,” Niedzwiecki said, adding that the heavily weighted seats for Sandwich and Yarmouth have changed hands.
Spyro Mitrokostas, who is Yarmouth’s newest representative on the assembly, said he is waiting to hear from the public at today’s hearing before making up his mind on the new rules.
While it was appropriate for the assembly to send the rules back for revision because they were too lenient, the latest version may be too onerous for municipalities trying to develop wind energy, he said.
“It seems that the pendulum has swung completely to the other side,” he said. “Whether it’s municipalities on town landfills or water districts on their own protection lands, I’d rather not handicap the towns.”
In Dennis, where Mitrokostas is the executive director of the chamber of commerce, residents came out in force at a public hearing on Monday with concerns over a proposal to build two 400-foot-tall turbines on water district property.
Another turbine proposed by a private aquaculture company near Chapin Memorial Beach in Dennis is embroiled in a legal battle after the regional board of the Old King’s Highway Historic District rejected the plan.
But Dennis is also home to a wind turbine success story, according to Mitrokostas and Niedzwiecki.
The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority has installed a 100-kilowatt turbine at its facility in South Dennis with little noticeable opposition from neighbors.
The turbine is a smaller variety that is another option for towns and other entities seeking to offset their energy use, Niedzwiecki said.
Neighbors who have raised concerns with various projects across the Cape are satisfied with the proposed rules, said their Westboro-based attorney, Christopher Senie.
“They’re not perfect from anyone’s point of view but they go a long way in the right direction,” Senie said.
In Bourne, efforts are afoot to change the town’s zoning bylaw to drive wind energy projects toward smaller turbines such as exist at Country Garden in Hyannis and at the Woods Hole Research Center, Senie said.
“Those are really excellent sized turbines for the Cape,” he said of the machines, which are about 160 feet tall.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding