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Fairhaven Wind developer suggests shutting one turbine down at night

FAIRHAVEN – The wind turbine developer said Monday the best way to come into compliance with noise limits within the timeframe set by selectmen is to shut one turbine down at night.

Sumul Shah of Fairhaven Wind LLC told selectmen he tried several options last week for reducing noise, including feathering the blades and changing the speed and direction, but that shutting one turbine off at night seemed to work best.

Selectmen voted June 10 to give Fairhaven Wind 30 days to come into compliance with the terms of the lease and the 10 decibel limit for adding to surrounding noise levels under state law.

The exceedances of the 10 decibel limit were found in testing conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection over several nights last March and April and one night in November 2012.

Mr. Shah pointed out that the turbines did not fail any sound tests conducted last summer, but he said taking steps now to reduce noise would ensure compliance this coming winter.

Mr. Shah said over the long run they will have to reprogram the turbines and the code to make the adjustments automated and permanent.

Selectman Geoffrey Haworth said he was encouraged by the developer’s coming back with a solution instead of resisting and just going to court.

A large crowd of about 70 people filled the Town Hall meeting room Monday representing both Windwise, which opposes the turbines. and a new group called Friends of Fairhaven Wind.

Along with Mr. Shah, attending from Fairhaven Wind were Gordon Deane of head company Palmer Capital and Jim Sweeney.

At Mr. Shah’s suggestion, selectmen agreed to form a committee to work with the developer. The committee would include a selectman, member of the Board of Health and member of the state DEP.

A suggestion was made to include a member of Windwise and Friends of Fairhaven Wind, too.

Daniel Freitas, who formed Friends of Fairhaven Wind, said he wants the turbines to be in compliance, but questioned why they had to be shut down from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Mr. Freitas said about 40 people attended a meeting of his group. “We’re going to be the vocal minority,” he said. Speaking of Windwise, whose candidates have won in recent elections, he said, “You represent the entire town, not just one group.”

Mr. Freitas pushed for an agreement to allow the turbines to run “24/7” if the developer brings them into compliance.

Mr. Haworth said each group for or against the turbines may have 40 members but there are 16,000 people in town.

He said the night time closure was set by the Board of Health and any decision on changing it had to be made by that board.

Mr. Haworth said the only order that came from selectmen was for the developer to be in compliance with the lease within 30 days of June 10.

“We have to find some sort of common ground that everybody can live with,” he said.

One resident who lives close to the turbines said they do not bother her.

But Grant Menard said, “This whole issue saddens me.” Mr. Menard said some neighbors have foliage blocking turbine noise and others do not.

He said some nights the turbines are “super loud” and other times they’re like a leaky faucet. “It’s the repetitive nature that drives you insane,” he said.

Select Board Chairman Charles Murphy said he wants to find a permanent solution that avoids a costly court battle, but also makes it possible for residents to sleep.

“The town is divided,” Mr. Murphy said. “Everyone has a different story. You can’t say anyone is wrong.”