Town officials from Derby, Derby Line and Holland went on a private tour of the First Wind project in Sheffield Thursday morning.
They were invited by Derby Line Wind Project developer Chad Farrell of Encore Redevelopment. They were joined at the Sheffield site by town officials from the Rutland area, where a wind project on Grandpa’s Knob is being considered.
Attending were the Holland selectmen, two trustees from Derby Line village, two listers from Derby and Derby zoning administrator Bob Kelley.
Three of those who attended and who spoke to The Record afterward said they were surprised by what they learned.
Holland Selectman Brett Farrow and Derby Line Trustees Keith Beadle and Perry Hunt said the turbine noise was less than expected.
“It was an eyeopener for sure,” Hunt said.
“They were a lot quieter than I imagined them to be,” said Farrow, whose home on Goodall Road in Holland is one of the closest to the turbine site on the Chase farm in Derby.
“A lot of my noise issues have been answered,” Farrow said. “A lot of my fears have been laid to rest.”
Beadle, who has expressed support for wind projects, said he was impressed.
His home is on Pelow Hill Road in Derby Line, about a mile away from the turbine proposed for the Davis family’s Grandview Farm.
Beadle said he could not hear noise at a quarter mile away from the Sheffield turbines.
There was more noise, while standing right next to a turbine tower, from the cooling system than from the blades turning, they each said.
“We were extremely close,” Farrow said.
It was a quiet day with low wind speeds. But when a gust of wind came up, they said the wind noise itself was louder than the blade noise.
“Personally I didn’t hear a whoosh-whoosh sound,” Farrow said.
But Farrow said the noise that does exist might bother some people. It did not bother him, he said.
They walked about 300 to 400 feet away and could hardly hear anything, they each said.
Beadle said he has Miniere’s Disease, an inner-ear ailment that causes ringing in the ear and loss of balance.
Beadle said he had heard that anyone with this disease would not be able to be near a turbine, which would cause nausea right away.
Beadle said he did not experience any discomfort while at the wind project. “I am very glad I went to see the thing,” he said.
They said he experienced some shadow flicker.
Farrow said it did not bother him. But again, that would depend on the person, he said.
Some of his concerns about noise and health impacts were addressed, Hunt said.
He still believes that wind projects should not be supported by federal tax credits or benefit from guaranteed higher priced contracts with Vermont utilities as required by state legislation.
“I am glad the trustees and others had a chance to go,” Hunt said.
An open house at the Sheffield wind project is planned for May 31, according to First Wind officials.
Beadle, Farrow and Hunt urged local residents to go to the open house.
“Go and see it for yourself. Make an educated opinion,” Hunt said.
“I wish that they would,” Farrow said.
The Holland and Derby select boards are in negotiations with Encore over annual payments and other considerations if the Derby Line Wind turbines are erected.
The Derby Line trustees are preparing a brief to file with utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board about concerns about blasting and the village’s reservoir in Derby.
Farrow said the Holland Select Board hasn’t taken a position on the wind project. Neither has the Derby Select Board.
No one from the Derby Select Board went on the tour. One of the Derby listers who attended, Sue Best, is the chairwoman of the Derby board’s wind committee.
The tour was not open to the public and was not publicized.
Farrell, when contacted about the tour late Wednesday, said that he didn’t mind if a reporter also attended but said it was up to First Wind officials who were putting on the tour.
John Lamontagne, spokesman for First Wind, turned down a request by this reporter to go on the Thursday tour.
He told The Record that the press could not attend this tour since it was not open to the public. He extended an invitation for a future visit, either at the open house or at another date.
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