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Wind power bylaw “pioneering”; under review by Planning Board

SHELBURNE – The Planning Board has charged the Wind Power Advisory Committee to remain intact for 40 more days while the board reviews substantial bylaw recommendations.

Committee Chair Kevin Parsons made a presentation about bylaws that primarily focus on small, residential wind turbines during the October Planning Board meeting last week. Parsons said the report represented hundreds of hours of work and that the Committee unanimously approved it.

The biggest problems noted by the Committee regarding “small wind” was the reliability of products being manufactured currently, noise, and flicker effects. In regard to noise, the Committee proposed that small wind turbines not be allowed to produce more than five decibels above determined ambient sound levels. The Committee strongly recommended strict enforcement of a bylaw that would prohibit flicker effect on any nearby building, however Planning Board chair Matt Marchese countered, saying, “that takes the whole village out of the equation.”

Overall, the Committee’s research determined that manufacturer’s claims and reality often don’t mesh.

“It’s really ‘buyer beware,'” said Parsons, a lawyer.

Committee members noted that at their very best, small wind turbines are only apparently 29 percent efficient, adding they had studied several small agricultural towns, some now embroiled in litigation. Parsons said the group was looking to protect the town and its citizens from similar problems, which primarily related to noise levels. He said studies have shown that noise levels beyond 40 decibels are harmful to human beings and animals and that the bylaws being recommended would protect residents’ health and safety.

“We’re not anti-renewable energy, but we believe that solar power is the better solution,” said Parsons.

In the current thinking, if someone wanted to install a small wind turbine, it could be no higher than 120 feet. Both Committee members and Planning Board members agreed that very little could be determined about the effects of a small wind turbine until after it was placed on site.

“Unless someone is giving you one of these things for free, solar is the better option,” Parson said, noting turbines cost in the range of $20,000.

He said the Committee has created a report that was “pioneering” and that few other towns he knows of have done such extensive research. The report will be available soon on the town Web site.

“It’s beyond commendable the work this Committee has done,” said Marchese.