An annoyance? Or nuisance?
A skeptical Bourne Board of Health says turbine flicker as delineated by New Generation Wind might be more than a nuisance to abutting property owners, but the turbine group says there are no industry or state legal standards governing that shadowing.
Most towns, they say, provide a clause in governing zoning bylaws that a reasonable distance be kept between turbines and neighboring homes.
Concerned Citizens for Responsible say the proposed seven-turbine wind-farm is in actuality a power plant in their backyards. They say turbine flicker and pole shadows at certain times – sunny days and at twilight, would cast bothersome images across Pilgrim Pines and Heather Hill Road subdivisions, Route 25, Scenic Highway and the canal.
Atlantic Design, working for New Generation Wind, says reducing flicker to 30 hours each year is a reasonable standard to follow. The turbine industry acknowledges structures might cause annoyance with some abutters, but that this does not reach a standard of nuisance.
Atlantic says flicker can be gauged and charted at nearby homes. Mitigation can be provided; that is when a complaint is received, the turbine can be shut down via computer programming.
All New Generation turbines would include such controls. Should the procedure of calls with complaints prove not to be viable, a turbine-shut down can be assured by a complaint protocol included in any decision to approve the project off Scenic Highway and Route 25.
The health board is taking testimony as it drafts its turbine regulation that focuses on public health and environmental issues. The regulation is not about New Generation Wind plans, but they serve as the backdrop to the discussion.
New Generation Wind attorney Diane Tillotson said there has been no registered abuse emanating from turbine flicker and no Massachusetts law governing it.
Where Atlantic Design used charts and graphs to state its case on flicker, the Concerned Citizens group of Buzzards Bay and Bournedale homeowners opted for a PowerPoint presentation complete with Google software that provided three-dimensional illustrations of turbines and the shadowing they would cause.
Residents later cited flicker concerns, citing their epileptic conditions, susceptibility to migraines and other ailments. They said turbine flicker across the two highways – on either side of the turbines – would distract motorists who are epileptic and could cause problems. They said marine traffic in the canal would also be impacted.
Health board member Galon “Skip” Barlow said if he was “bothered by a nuisance 30 hours a year,” he would move. He said flicker likely presents more of a nuisance than a mere annoyance.
“An annoyance on a predictable basis is a nuisance,” Barlow said. “Why would the residents want to accept this, from an engineering standpoint? Why should they be comfortable with this? Is there a greater good coming from this?”
Health board member Stanley Andrews wanted to know how neighboring homeowners could actually record flicker impacts and times.
New Generation principal Tudor Ingersoll of Buzzards Bay said this could be done with a recording camera complete with a time stamp.
Health board chairman Kathy Peterson acknowledged there are varying interpretations about flicker impacts. She said, however, that flicker caused by the controversial turbine in the Falmouth Industrial Park is “extremely annoying.”
Tillotson, however, repeated her point; that is, flicker does not reach a legal standard of nuisance and that New Generation turbines will not “get close to that 30 hours per year ceiling.”
Peterson said the lack of a state standard concerns her. Barlow said a procedure in which concerned neighbors are forced to call a New Generation number to have a turbine shut down would be similar to the process through which neighbors to the town landfill – who are upset about odors – simply stop calling.
Keith Mann of Head of the Bay, who plans turbine on his South Plymouth cranberry acreage, said New Generation turbines would not impact traffic on nearby highway or in the canal. He said motorists moving at 50 miles per hour would pass any shadow at a rate of two second for 100 meters.
Mann said more than 30 hours of flicker impact each year would indeed represent an annoyance. Less than that, he added, would not.
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