ROCKPORT, Maine – With less than two weeks before a scheduled groundbreaking, a local school committee is nervous about the planned construction of a wind turbine on the high school campus.
Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport plans to begin installing a 155-foot-tall wind turbine on the campus to help generate energy for the school and as an educational project. But members of the Five Town Community School District facilities committee expressed their concerns during their Thursday meeting about potential noise levels.
Committee member Jim McKenna asked why there had not been an on-site acoustic study done. With the turbine to be located only about 350 feet from the school and about 1,000 feet from homes, McKenna worried that low-frequency noise would be disruptive.
“Until the point where we get this up and running we need to make sure we ask the right questions,” he said.
The turbine was the brainchild of high school students, who formed a group called WindPlanners that worked for about eight years planning the project and fundraising to pay its estimated $510,000 cost.
The WindPlanners group did some of its own research on the sound effects of the turbine, but according to facilities committee chair Edmund Hartt, no acoustic engineer was brought on-site to evaluate the project.
The problem with spending money on an acoustic study is that there is no extra money, according to the CSD’s facilities manager Keith Rose. Taking time to raise more money for a formal sound study may jeopardize funds already promised, he said.
“We were looking at construction on Dec. 11. The foundation needs to sit for 28 days before anything goes on. We were hoping for commissioning by the second week in February. The project needs to be completed by March 30 or we lose a $50,000 Efficiency Maine grant,” Rose said. “[Efficiency Maine has] already given us an extension.”
The three committee members unanimously voted to ask the WindPlanners what sound studies they have done. The panelists also voted to ask the school board whether an acoustic engineer should be hired to conduct a sound study. The issue will be brought up at the school board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
“Losing $50,000 is better than losing $250,000 [in a potential lawsuit] from someone who has headaches for the rest of their life or something like that,” Hartt said.
Rose has said previously that the turbine would produce 12 to 15 percent of the school’s electricity each year, saving the school about $20,000 annually. The turbine also would be used as an education tool as science classes monitor energy generation and consumption.