SHELBURNE – Since Dec. 14, the Planning Board here has obtained sample bylaws from various sources, ranging from individual towns to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) and the state Department of Economic Resources (DOER), to use as templates in wording a wind turbine bylaw for the town. But it was not until the board’s Oct 17 meeting that the technical differences among these samples were explained to the board and an audience of 25 residents.
Using funds from a $5,000 Franklin Regional Council of Governments’ technical assistance grant awarded to the town in late January, the board had hired Westfield-based consulting engineer and environmental specialist firm Tighe & Bond to help develop, review and prepare two drafts of a for-premises use wind facilities bylaw by the end of December.
The first step was a review and evaluation of current town zoning bylaws with large-scale wind facility bylaws from BRPC, DOER and the towns of Lee and Winchedon, as well as small-scale wind facility bylaws from DOER and the towns of Ashburnham and Worcester.
In the case of large-scale, the scale differentiator for BRPC, DOER, and Lee is a wind turbine’s minimum height being greater than 140 feet, 150 feet, and 200 feet, respectively. Winchendon, defined as commercial scale, goes by turbine capacity being greater than 10 kilowatts. In the case of small-scale, DOER and Ashburnham is on capacity, equal or less than 60 kilowatts for DOER and under 60 kilowatts for Ashburnham, while Worcester requires a rotor diameter less than 20 feet For large-scale, the maximum tip height (MTH) requirement is 400-500 feet for BRPC, 450 feet for DOER, 420 feet for Lee and 300 feet, unless demonstrated for needed greater height, in Winchendon. For small-scale, MTH is 160 feet or 10 feet above the ridgeline for rooftop projects in Ashburnham, a MTH of95 feet with at least 20 feet from ground to blade in Worcester, and no limit for DOER.
Slides of the presentation are available on the town Web site and paper copies are available from Town Clerk Beverly Neeley.
The most complex component explained was setbacks, with varied restrictions among the resources culled.
During the question period, Shelburne resident Ray Hartman pointed out that the setbacks noted are lenient compared to other places in the United States, including a two-mile setback in Oregon, 1.1 miles in Fayette County,PA,and one mile in Trempealeau County, WI. He added that setbacks in other countries are longer than that, with up to 3.1 miles in Wales and 6.2 miles in Scotland. Hartman wanted to know how Massachusetts’ setbacks compare to those in other states where Tighe & Bond have worked. The answer was that the firm has worked on a few projects in Connecticut and New Hampshire, but most in MA and that CT is “comparable, but perhaps a bit more strict” than MA and NH setbacks are “too variable” to compare.
Mike Parry of Shelburne asked why bylaw examples for large-scale wind were shown at the presentation since 77 percent of townspeople voted to ban commercial and industrial wind projects. Planning Board Chair Matt Marchese reminded him that residents voted for a moratorium “to learn all aspects of wind and to not look at large wind, despite the ban, is a misinterpretation of facts.” Later Peter London, also of Shelburne, inquired about rules of thumb equating capacity with height for large- and small-scale wind generating facilities.
“It depends on how you determine it,” said the Tighe & Bond representative.”If a household uses 100,000 kilowatt-hours a year, a 100-kilowatt turbine produces between that and 350,000 kilowatt-hours. A good height for a 15-kilowatt turbine is 65 feet; about 146 feet for a l00-kilowatt turbine and a 750-900 kilowatt turbine at 285 feet would be considered a large small turbine. From the slide, the height for a 2.5 megawatt turbine is 492feet, and that height or more is large scale.”
She also reminded the board and audience that wind power generation varies per time of day and by season, which complicates calculations for the percentage use of premises.
She said thatthe state Department of Environmental Protection finished studying turbine noise levels, and suggested the town “should see what is currently here that makes noise and check to see if a small turbine would make more noise than that.”
She also suggested making wind permitting as defensible as possible, considering how far away impacts will be felt and using setbacks and siting to mitigate or avoid them, and determining whether to separate sections for small- and large-scale wind projects for simpler and clearer applicability, administration and enforcement.
The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov.14at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall.