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Wind power watchers to 'wait and see'

WOODSTOCK – Leola Ballweber, president of the Friends of Spruce Mountain, said Monday that she and others concerned with the construction of a 10-tower wind farm on Spruce Mountain will “wait and see” what happens next as phase one of the project gets under way.

Ballweber was one of about 10 residents who appeared at an informational hearing in the Woodstock Elementary School Monday night to get the latest update from Patriot Renewables LLC on the wind farm including information about the start of tree clearing, road construction, blasting and electrical line work.

The work on the project’s phase one began this week on Cushman Road to make way for the wind farm capable of producing up to 20 megawatts, or enough energy to power 9,600 homes.

The Massachusetts-based developers received a building permit for the project on June 9. The turbines are expected to be installed and running by the end of the year.

Ballweber, who lives 1.2 miles from the site, said that her concern over the noise level is based in part on what the World Health Organization and others have determined is an acceptable noise level from wind turbines and that the Spruce Mountain project exceeds European decibel limits. She said that she is awaiting action from the Board of Environmental Protection which will hold a hearing on July 7 to take testimony from experts and the public at large on a proposed new subsection to establish noise standards for wind energy developments.

In February, Friends of Spruce Mountain unsuccessfully appealed the Department of Environmental Protection permit to the Maine Board of Environmental Protection on a 5–1 vote.

The group argued that the low-frequency sounds from the turbines could disrupt the sleep and the health of abutters, a disputed affliction called “wind turbine syndrome.”

The site plan permit has strict rules for wind noise, capping noise levels at 55 decibels during the day and 45 at night. Under the permit conditions, the developer must collect data on the noise and submit it to the DEP. If the DEP finds they are exceeding noise limits, Patriot must reduce the noise levels of the turbines. The DEP is also requiring Patriot Renewables to operate a toll-free complaint hot line where residents can report loud turbine noise.

“Communication is the most important thing here,” said Tom Carroll, community outreach person for Patriots Renewable, after the meeting.

Carroll said he intends to be at the Woodstock Board of Selectmen’s meeting each third Tuesday of the month to update the town on the project. Additionally, he said, residents can sign up to be on an email list for updates or contact him at 207-577-8412 or check online at www.sprucemountainwind.com.

All taxpayers in Woodstock will also be receiving an information packet in the mail this week.

“If anyone has any questions call me,” he stressed, saying he would prefer to hear about a problem right away rather than later.

Carroll said crews will be working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m or later. He said issues such as controlled blasting and engine brakes early in the morning, issues that residents questioned, can probably be resolved through a phone call.

In addition to the residents, the meeting was attended by contractors, Central Maine Power Co. officials and others who Carroll said were there to answer questions from the residents.

Patriot Renewables LLC, of Quincy, Mass., is a commercial-scale wind energy projects in Maine and Massachusetts.