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Maine Wind Farm Debates Continue in Mars Hill, Roxbury

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With one of the nation’s “poster child” noisy wind farms in Mars Hill and a popular former governor advocating (and financing) more use of wind power, the State of Maine continues to be at the forefront of the debate over how much credence to give to neighbors’ reports and concerns about wind turbines close to their homes.  Seventeen neighbors of the Mars Hill wind farm, who live from under 2000 feet out to 3600 feet from active turbines, have filed suit against the wind farm developer, asking for compensation for loss of property values, nuisance and emotional distress, and upgrades to the turbines to make them quieter (download the full complaint).

The Todd Residence in Mars Hill.  Photo by Anne Ravana.

The Todd Residence in Mars Hill. Photo by Anne Ravana.

The state gave the Mars Hill farm a variance to the state noise ordinance, allowing it to be 5dB louder than normally permitted; recordings made by a state-funded acoustics firm indicated that not all locations were fully in compliance, yet the state signed off on the results as being good enough.  The state also hired an acoustics consultant to peer-review the monitoring study, and in his report, this consultant expressed several concerns with the results, saying that “wind turbine noise needs more investigation!”

Meanwhile, in Roxbury, a proposed wind farm is meeting resistance from some neighbors, unsurprisingly, given the extensive local coverage of the Mars Hill fiasco—where the state says it’s learned its lesson about variances.  In Roxbury, turbines will be at least 3100 feet from homes (most, though not all, of the Mars Hill folks with problems are closer than a half mile).  In some cases, though, they will be across lakes from residences, which may cause other unpredicted sound transmission patterns, especially in winter.  However, the town of Roxbury has twice voted to allow the wind farm to proceed, and a final appeal by some residents has been denied. The  most recent, Jan. 15 tallies were 89-81 to amend the comprehensive plan to allow wind generation facilities in Roxbury and 87-80 to create a mountain district zone to designate areas suitable for erecting wind energy facilities. This vote followed both a 180-day moratorium during which both Record Hill and anti-wind power group Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury held informational meetings, and the first vote favoring the changes.Former Governor Angus King, a principal in the Roxbury wind project, defended the method used to measure the wind noise impacts. “We used conservative assumptions,” he said. “We assumed everyone was downwind at all times, and there was maximum sound output at all times.” King noted that the sound output was based on field testing and a sophisticated sound model, though others have raised doubts about some of the model’s assumptions (there are many ways to model sound, each of which has its distinct justifications—and actual sound transmission is often different than any models).   See these three articles from the local Lewiston Sun Journal for full coverage of the Roxbury debate, and this editorial from Wind Action, which includes coverage of the Mars Hill sound monitoring reports.

UPDATE: A very cogent editorial in the Bangor Daily News could almost have been written by me!  Excerpts: “The responsibility for getting set-back distances that virtually eliminate the annoyance factor for residents should fall to the industry. If wind power firms can keep neighbors happy, at least for the most part, new proposals will be more likely to be accepted. The last thing this burgeoning industry needs is for Mars Hill to become a rallying cry for those opposing towers and turbines…. Too much is at stake with this new technology to needlessly or recklessly turn public opinion against it.”

One Response to “Maine Wind Farm Debates Continue in Mars Hill, Roxbury”

  1. » Blog Archive » Maine towns resist wind farms as state looks to far offshore sites Says:

    […] adopting moratoriums on any permits.  These actions come in the wake of three projects that have generated significant noise issues for neighbors out to as far as 3000-3500 feet; thus, half-mile setbacks […]