Greenwood selectmen, on July 17, are expected to set a date for a special Town Meeting to decide the fate of proposed amendments to the commercial wind farm section of the town ordinance.
On July 9, more than 100 people turned out for a public hearing on the issue that was dominated by comments in favor of the amendments, which would place much tighter restrictions on wind farms.
One new provision – the height restriction on turbine towers – would effectively ban such projects.
The Calpine Corporation is currently studying the viability of a 13-turbine “Long Mountain Wind Farm” project in the area of Long, Tibbetts and Elwell mountains, near Twitchell Pond. Prompted by the potential development, Greenwood’s Ordinance Review Committee has proposed the updates for the ordinance.
The town’s existing ordinance limits decibel levels from routine operation of wind turbines to 55 decibels daytime and 42 at night at non-participating landowner property lines, the same as state guidelines. Setbacks from property lines are a minimum of 150 percent of the height of the towers. There are no height limits specified.
A key part of the new proposal includes a recommendation for decibel limits with a daytime audible decibel maximum of 35, and 25 decibels at night. The ORC also recommended to limit tower heights to 250 feet (as measured from the tower base to the highest point of any turbine rotor blade, at the highest arc of the blade) and establish setbacks of one mile per 100 feet of tower height.
Calpine has said its wind facility would need towers that are more than 500 feet in height, and the project would likely utilize 600-foot towers. In early June, the company hosted a public informational session on the project.
Monday’s town hearing, which lasted just under two hours, featured a page-by-page explanation of key parts of the proposed amendments by Planning Board Chairman/ORC member Dennis Doyon.
Among the highlights:
- A requirement to show on a map any scenic resource or historic site to be impacted by a wind farm within 1,000 feet of any disturbed area associated with the farm (the current ordinance specifies one mile).
- Details regarding noise control that include reference to information provided to the ORC by their consultants, who provided data and opinion on the effects of wind farm noise on human health and recommended standards to minimize those. The consultants said health problems may include such issues as sleep disorders, motion sickness, nausea, headaches, vertigo and stress.
- A requirement that measurements to determine compliance with sound levels at property lines should be done at wind speeds at which the turbine is shown to produce the highest sound level based on vendor testing.
- A requirement to measure “infrasound,” which is not detectable to the ear but can be measured with instrumentation. Doyon said the Greenwood proposal is the first in the U.S. to have an infrasound component.
Public complaints about wind turbine operations to be made via a written town complaint form (rather than to a company phone number, as stipulated in the current ordinance). A detailed procedure/timeline is spelled out for dealing with complaints.
A tightening of the decommissioning process for towers that cease to generate electricity to cover financing for decommissioning in situations in which the towers might be abandoned by the wind company.