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Wind farm rules are approved in Westminster

WESTMINSTER – The Planning Board passed its regulations for proposed wind farms in the town last week and has submitted a definition of “shadow flicker.”

Voters at the May 5 Town Meeting approved the creation of zoning bylaws in the town for power-generating windmills. Town Planner Stephen Wallace said the bylaws give the Planning Board the right to set regulations for performance standards.

Wallace said the ordinances used the term “shadow flicker” but did not previously define it.

The definition submitted for approval at the Oct. 9 Planning Board meeting is “A repeating cycle of changing light intensity that occurs when shadows caused by the rotating blades of a wind turbine pass over an object or across a window.”

“I don’t think it’s going to be very controversial,” said Wallace.

Those standards limit shadow flicker from falling within 100 feet from existing residences, on roads that receive 500 vehicles or more per day or on any intersections.

Special considerations are needed to mitigate distracting shadows for any windmill built within a quarter mile of an inhabited building.

Other regulations for wind farms in Westminster include means to prevent unauthorized access, such as fences. Any experimental wind facilities in the town cannot be tied into the utility grid. The towers and wind generators have to stay the same non-reflective color issued by the manufacturer and no signs can be placed directly on the wind turbine structures.

Wallace said Westminster has seven or eight locations suitable for wind farms, most of which are in the north part of town.