Canaan – Town planning officials say they’ve drafted an ordinance that could ease concerns about potential wind farm development in town.
The proposed ordinance would create several regulations governing future wind farms, including new setbacks from neighboring properties, noise controls and protections for scenic views.
A draft copy of the rules was released last week, but the ordinance will require a Town Meeting vote in March to take effect.
“What we’re trying to do is protect town land from windmills that might be too close to residential houses and other areas,” Christopher Wadsworth, a member of Canaan’s Wind Energy Systems Subcommittee, said on Wednesday.
The three-member committee began work to develop wind regulations almost a year ago in response to community opposition to the Spruce Ridge Wind project, Wadsworth said.
That proposal sought to build 29 wind turbines across Canaan; Orange; Dorchester; Alexandria and Groton, N.H.
EDP Renewables, the North American subsidiary of the European energy company Energias de Portugal, pulled the project from the regulatory process in April. However, the company has since indicated it wishes to try again in the future.
Wadsworth said the proposed ordinance cannot regulate projects as large as Spruce Ridge, but it does offer guidance to regulators at the state’s Site Evaluation Committee, which reviews large energy projects in the Granite State.
Instead, the proposed rules require wind farms to obtain Canaan Planning Board approval if they don’t meet the requirements for state review but produce more electricity than consumer turbines.
“I think it’s a good draft,” said Chuck Townsend, a member of the wind subcommittee. “I think it will do what we want it to do: make sure that if there is any development, it would be safe and it would be environmentally benign while not putting too many obstructions in the way.”
If the ordinance is adopted, Townsend said, he doubts it will ever be used. Projects that don’t meet state review guidelines aren’t large enough to be very profitable, he said, and those that are larger have difficulty finding an easy connection to transmission lines.
“Nevertheless, I think it’s a good ordinance and will be reassuring to the town,” Townsend said.
By adopting an ordinance, Canaan would be joining at least 10 other New Hampshire communities that regulate wind power, including Orange, according to Lisa Linowes, executive director of the Industrial Wind Action Group, which advocates for wind regulation in the Granite State.
Some of the first local ordinances were proposed after the Lempster (N.H.) Wind Power Project came online in 2008, bringing 12 turbines to the southern Sullivan County community.
Projects in the White Mountains and the North Country also resulted in new local regulations, she said, but it was the 2012 activation of the Groton Wind farm that brought wind power to the attention of many Mascoma and Newfound area residents.
That project built nearly 24,400-foot turbines on a ridge overlooking Groton and Plymouth, N.H. The turbines are visible from Interstate 93 and in many surrounding communities.
“That started kind of a snowball effect,” Linowes said. “People said, ‘OK we need to protect our views, our neighbors, our communities.’ ”
Linowes said ordinances should protect community safety and aesthetics, while also ensuring wind farms are properly managed.
That means towns should require a proposed wind project to simulate the views it will create, regulate the amount of noise the turbines make and dictate adequate building setbacks from neighbors.
“I think they’re on a very good path,” Linowes said of Canaan’s effort. “They’re only trying to protect the landowners and property owners that are there now.”
The draft ordinance currently is under review by several experts and town officials, Canaan Planning Board Chairman John Bergeron said. The rules will be further revised beginning next week before coming to the full board in December.
Public hearings are expected to take place this winter, Bergeron said. And if all goes well, the ordinance will be included on the March Town Meeting ballot.
People can read a copy of the draft at Canaan’s website, canaannh.org, under the “News & Alerts” tab.