FAIRHAVEN – Imagining the worst so they can plan what’s best, Planning Board members conjured up a number of doomsday-like scenarios involving wind turbines Tuesday night during a review of the latest turbine bylaw draft.
From turbines collapsing in on themselves, to falling over like a felled tree, to flinging ice, to flinging turbine blades, to exploding, the board discussed it all in an effort to ensure the draft took everything into account in creating new setback and height limits.
“First thing is to decide on a fall zone, which is how much protection you want from a turbine falling over,” said board Chairman Wayne Hayward, who also wrote the draft bylaw. “Second thing is a setback, which protects from things flinging off of it and also sound and flicker concerns.”
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of two “planning groups” on the draft bylaw. It dealt specifically with height and setbacks. The next meeting will cover safety issues such as ice fling, sound and flicker.
Current town bylaws measure turbine height to be from the ground to the middle of the turbine’s nacelle, or hub. The draft bylaw calls for measuring turbines by “maximum tip height,” or the distance from the ground to blade tip when the blade is pointed straight up.
“If a turbine falls down like a tree and you only have a setback of the turbine height but you don’t count the wings in the turbine height, someone or something is going to get hit,” Hayward said, adding that wind turbines are more likely to collapse onto themselves if they malfunction rather than fall over.
Many of the Planning Board members agreed that measuring turbines by maximum tip height made sense because “everyone in town already says they are almost 400-foot tall turbines, which is going by tip height,” Hayward said.
Board members also discussed proposed setbacks for wind turbines, which would be 1.5 times turbine height under the proposed bylaw.
Jeffrey Lucas, who advocated a setback of 1.1 times turbine height, said he thinks 1.5 is excessive. “It seems like a big fall zone to me. If it falls like a tree, it’s not going to hop over anywhere.”
Hayward said he wrote the draft with a 1.5 times height setback to act as a “fudge factor and margin of safety” for the future.
Board member Rene Fleurent said he was concerned that the 1.5 setback would not necessarily “alleviate problems you have from noise, or infrasound, which we’re hearing a lot about.”
Fairhaven Director of Planning and Economic Development William Roth reassured Fleurent, saying that under the draft, potential developers “would have to meet the setback as a minimum, but also prove through sound studies that the setback would be enough.”
“If it wasn’t, they’d have to move it back,” he said.
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