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Clifton Maine considers 4000 foot setbacks for wind turbines

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A private landowner in Clifton, Maine, is hoping to erect four commercial wind turbines on a small ridge known as Pisgah Mountain, and sell the energy to the local utility, Bangor Hydro.  Hearing of negative experiences in other Maine towns, including Mars Hill and Vinalhaven, some local residents are concerned about noise impacts and effects on wildlife.  The town of Clifton has drafted a new ordinance that sets 4000 feet as the minimum distance between a turbine and a neighboring house; this ordinance will go before voters on June 8.  In both other towns, affected families live within 3500 feet of the local turbines.

“What we have on this site is setbacks to the closest residence of a little over 4,300 feet,” says Paul Fuller, who owns the 240 acres where the turbines would be built. “I think we could boast that that is the farthest setback of any wind farm in the state of Maine at this point.”  Several other homes are within a mile to mile and a half of the location.

If this project moves ahead, it would be one of the first to do so with regulatory setbacks of over 1500-1700 feet, which are commonly used in Maine and elsewhere in the US, as developers aim to reach a 45dB limit at homes.  The ordinance allows sound levels of up to 50dB during the day and 40dB at night; past experience would suggest that at this distance, these sound levels are unlikely to be reached, though it is entirely possible that the turbines will be somewhat audible up to a mile or so away at times (night time noise levels in rural areas can be as low as 20-25db).  Some community advocates urge setbacks of a mile or mile and a quarter, to more surely eliminate audible noise issues; this project would be a valuable “guinea pig” for the helping answer the crucial question of where the proper balance lies between wind development and respecting the rural soundscape of small towns.

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