An open letter to the residents of Fairhaven- -Fairhaven Wind LLC
Posted in the Fairhaven Forum
#1 May 26, 2013
An open letter to the residents of FairhavenDecember 15, 2011 11:16 AM
Gordon L. Deane is president of Palmer Management Corporation, the manager of Fairhaven Wind LLC.
By Gordon L. Deane
Being the private part of the public-private partnership that is involved in the implementation of the wind turbines in Fairhaven, we have been dismayed about the reaction of some residents in Fairhaven (and outside of Fairhaven) who are seeking to castigate the public officials of the town who have continued to move the wind project along as approved by a majority of citizens at the Special Town Meeting on May 15, 2007. Some of these people even seek to discredit these officials and the project by spreading misinformation in the papers, at town hearings and on the web. We appreciate this opportunity to set the record straight with the following facts.
The Public Process: Some have alleged that this project has circumvented the public process. Nothing could be further from the truth. The development of this project by the Town of Fairhaven commenced with an amendment of the town's by-laws in May 2004 to allow for siting of commercial and municipal wind facilities. Any such by-law amendment has to be vetted through a series of town committees, approved by a majority of the citizens at a Town Meeting, and approved as lawful by the Massachusetts Attorney General. The town followed these approvals with a publicly-noticed request for proposals in the spring of 2006 and, after a series of presentations, an overwhelming majority of residents at a Special Town Meeting voted to proceed. The project then went through a series of permitting hearings which required the notification of abutters. When the permits were granted, opponents appealed the permits as well as the town's ability to issue the permits. This was well-covered in the local press.
#2 May 26, 2013
It is important to note that the Commonwealth's Green Communities Act of 2008 did not override local authority or allow one to "sidestep some permitting" as has been reported. Rather, the Green Communities Act allowed the town to exercise its option, already included in the 2007 lease, to purchase 100 percent of the power rather than just the power that could be used by the town's adjacent waste water treatment plant. Indisputably, the project qualifies as a "municipal" wind project under the town's 2004 by-law and the project is allowed to proceed as-of-right after obtaining a building permit. Because a special permit was no longer required, there was no need for the town to spend funds defending the appeal of a special permit. Moreover, at the same time, CCI Energy clearly stated in the press that it planned to continue to develop the project.
The project progressed, albeit slowly, as it awaited regulations from the Department of Public Utilities to implement the Green Communities Act and for an agreement with NSTAR for the interconnection. Lease amendments (to ensure consistency with the regulations) were negotiated with town officials and discussed in properly-noticed meetings. In the February 2011 special "Green Side" edition of the Fairhaven Neighborhood News, it was reported that the town "is also pursuing the construction of two industrial sized wind turbines that could generate enough electricity to power all town buildings at a lower rate." The necessary amendments to the lease were signed at a duly-noticed selectmen's meeting on March 14, 2011.
The town's efforts were well-publicized for anyone taking an interest. Agenda and minutes of the selectmen's meetings are posted on the town's website, and selectmen's meetings are broadcast live and then re-broadcast throughout the week. A September 2011 posting to the opponents' Facebook page, referencing Palmer Capital's website, further alerted the opponents with the following statement "For those of you concerned with the Fairhaven Wind Project it seems like it's back on." On Sept. 29, 2011, an advertisement was placed in the Fairhaven Neighborhood News alerting residents that there was a "Request for Amendment of a Superseding Order of Conditions to the MassDEP Southeast Regional Office to approve minor modifications to the locations of the two proposed wind turbines at the Town of Fairhaven property on Arsene Street" and that there would be a 21-day public comment period. No comments were received during the comment period or the subsequent 10-day appeal period.
#3 May 26, 2013
The opponents have even falsely accused the town of commencing construction on Veterans Day to avoid public scrutiny. In fact, site work had commenced almost three weeks earlier with soil investigations where the turbines are going to be located and work adjacent to the town's recycling center where the turbines' communications will be connected into equipment at the waste water treatment plant. There was no conspiracy of silence on the part of town officials.
Equipment Height: There have been statements alleging that town officials are lying to residents about the height of the project, since the project has an approval from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to build taller turbines. Taller turbines were contemplated at one time and the FAA did provide the project permission to build such turbines. However, that is not what has been ordered. As you can imagine, the FAA is not concerned if the town builds something lower than its flight plan analysis allows.
Each turbine will be on an 80-meter tower and have an 82-meter rotor diameter. Therefore, the total height of each turbine is 262 feet and the maximum extension to the tip of the blades is 397 feet. For comparison purposes, the nearby WJFD radio tower, at 600 feet, is over twice the height of the turbine tower and 50 percent higher than the tips of the blades. Hence, the turbines are not even close to being the tallest thing in the neighborhood.
Shadow Flicker and New School: Whether by opponents of the new school or the turbines, a few people have raised the issue of the impact of the turbines on the recently-approved Leroy L. Wood Elementary School located at 60 Sconticut Neck Road. One concern mentioned is the impact of shadow flicker, although there is no recognized health effect from turbine flicker and turbines are currently operating directly on many school properties in the region, including Portsmouth Abbey, Hull High School and Medford Elementary School. Fortunately, shadows are easy to predict and we have done so for that specific location. Given the school's position west of the two turbines, 70 percent of the school's exposure to shadows from the turbines will occur during the summer months of June through August. More importantly, no shadows are projected to occur on school property after 6:54 a.m. on any day.
Noise: Another concern voiced by opponents is the possibility of noise from the turbines. We do not deny the fact that wind turbines make noise, including the noise resulting from the blades cutting through the air as the wind pushes the blades, just as a household fan can make a noise. It has been alleged that turbines from China are "historically "¦ the worst as far as noise associated with the operations." We do not know the source of this misinformation. We do know that the Danish-engineered Vestas turbines originally permitted for Fairhaven, but now operating in Falmouth, were modeled by the town and the Massachusetts Technology Center and were projected to meet all of the state and local requirements in Fairhaven. As stated in that report, the maximum sound level from the Vestas turbines was 110 dBA. Since sound levels are reported on a logarithmic scale, this is substantially more than the manufacturer's published sound level for the turbines under construction in Fairhaven which is 104.7 dBA. A 5 dBA difference is the difference between normal speech at one meter and a vacuum cleaner at 3 meters. Hence comparisons to Falmouth and derogatory comments about the country of origin are unjust and inappropriate.
#4 May 26, 2013
The fact that there are minimal complaints from the comparably-sized Hull turbine is discounted by opponents stating that the Hull turbine is lower in height than the ones planned for Fairhaven. Yet everyone knows that the farther away one is from a noise, the less one can hear it. For this very reason, we decided to move the south turbine almost 200 feet farther away from the nearest residence than had been originally permitted by the town for the Vestas turbines. Such a move not only directly reduces the noise at the closest residences, it also puts more trees between the turbine and the residences, which should further reduce the sound (and the visibility). This move prompted the MassDEP public notice in late September and the subsequent public comment period discussed above.
Turbine Health Effects: Unfortunately, anyone can publish anything on the web today and wind energy opponents have used the web to propagate a lot of misinformation on health effects that have no scientific basis. Dr. Nina Pierpoint has made a business out of her self-proclaimed "Wind Turbine Syndrome" which allegedly is caused by sound that humans can neither hear nor feel. Despite her statements that her work will be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, to our knowledge, there has been no such publication. Others have looked into these and similar claims and have found only anecdotal, not scientific, evidence.
Nevertheless, two years ago the American Wind Energy Association and the Canadian Wind Energy Association were concerned enough with these allegations that they commissioned a panel of seven international experts in their respective fields to look into these claims and any supporting scientific evidence. The executive summary of their 85-page report provides the following conclusions:
#5 May 26, 2013
There is no evidence that the audible or sub-audible sounds emitted by wind turbines have any direct adverse physiological effects.
The ground-borne vibrations from wind turbines are too weak to be detected by, or to affect, humans.
The sounds emitted by wind turbines are not unique. There is no reason to believe, based on the levels and frequencies of the sounds and the panel's experience with sound exposures in occupational settings, that the sounds from wind turbines could plausibly have direct adverse health consequences.
The entire report can be found at http://www.awea.org/_cs_upload/learnabout/pub... .
Since some will suspect any study commissioned by industry advocates, we also provide a reference to a September 2011 article published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health, which states that "annoyance appears to be more strongly related to visual cues and attitude than to noise itself; self-reported health effects of people living near wind turbines are more likely attributed to physical manifestation from an annoyed state than from wind turbines themselves." In other words, self-reported health effects appear to arise due to being annoyed with the turbines and not due to a turbine-specific variable such as flicker, noise or infrasound. One can read this article at http://www.ehjournal.net/content/10/1/78 .
Economics: The town's officials did a superb job representing the Town of Fairhaven and seeking to obtain the best possible outcome for the town despite the changing economic and regulatory conditions during the long development period for this project. The town's starting electric rate of 7.43 cents per kilowatt hour is substantially lower than we have seen proposed for other municipally-based wind projects. The town is also entitled to a royalty on production and to property taxes on the equipment, despite the project being located on town-owned property.
Given today's electric rates, which are depressed compared to what they were only two years ago due to the economic downturn, the town is projected to earn and save over $200,000 per year. If rates return to 2009 levels, the town's cost of energy from the project does not change and the town is projected to save over $600,000 per year.
In conclusion, we feel that town officials should be congratulated and not criticized by Fairhaven residents. The town has stuck with a long, drawn out and public process, as presented to and approved by its citizens back in 2007. While some may feel they were not fully heard and a few may even work themselves into frenzied complaints, in the long run, the Town of Fairhaven will benefit economically and environmentally from these officials' efforts.
#6 Jun 8, 2013
Turbine developer's letter irks Fairhaven Board of Health
By Ariel Wittenberg
July 03, 2012 12:00 AM
FAIRHAVEN Board of Health members are angry over a letter they received from Fairhaven Wind developer Sumul Shah in place of a plan to address residents' complaints about noise and shadow "flicker" from the two wind turbines off Arsene Street.
Shah was ordered in June to present options for alleviating complaints about the turbines to the board at its meeting last week. Instead, Shah's letter analyzed the nature of the turbine complaints and questioned their legitimacy.
In the letter, Shah wrote that 42 percent of the 132 complaints had been lodged by plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the town seeking to dismantle the turbines. An additional 22.5 percent of the complaints were lodged by others who had publicly voiced their opposition to the turbines before they were operational.
"This makes one question the validity of many complaints or the rationale for why people are complaining," the letter reads.
Further, Shah advised the board that "it is your responsibility to separate legitimate complaints, which could be related to a violation of local or state standards, from complaints which are merely a back-door attempt to implement a tiny minority opinion."
Board of Health member Barbara Acksen said she was appalled by Shah's letter, saying "We were not at all pleased with the report."
#7 Jun 9, 2013
State finds Fairhaven turbines in violation of noise regulations
Credit: By Ariel Wittenberg | May 22, 2013 | www.southcoasttoday.com ~~
FAIRHAVEN Fairhavens two industrial-sized wind turbines are in violation of Massachusetts noise regulations, according to preliminary results of a sound study conducted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The announcement at a meeting Tuesday night prompted opponents to demand the turbines be shut down.
DEP Deputy Commissioner Martin Suuberg told the Board of Health that noise from the turbines exceeded state regulations in five of the 24 periods during which the DEP conducted testing.
DEP started its sound study in August to determine whether the turbines were more than 10 decibels louder than ambient noise at homes of residents who had complained about the turbine noise.
Five different locations were tested overall but the five periods of noncompliance came from only single locations on Little Bay Road, Peirces Point Road and Teal Circle.
Winds were blowing from the northwest and northeast, at varying speeds, when the turbines were found to be exceeding noise regulations by differences of .7 to 1.5 decibels, according to DEP data presented Tuesday night.
The DEP still needs to collect more noise samples at varying wind speeds before the test is complete, but Suuberg said the state agency would work with the town and developers to mitigate the problem.
Developer Gordon Dean said he disputed some of the methodology used in the DEPs study but agreed to work with the town and DEP to see what might be done in a cost-effective manner.
He said he hoped a solution could be found before winter, when many of the violations were found.
That response was not good enough for the more than 30 members of the turbine opposition group Windwise who were in attendance and cheered and booed various speakers throughout the meeting.
At one point, many in the audience began shouting for Board of Health Chairman Peter DeTerra to make a motion to shut down the wind turbines until Fairhaven Wind presented the board with a mitigation plan.
Until you find a way to fix this, its only fair to shut them down, Grant Menard said.
Lisa Plante agreed, saying the burden of proof is on the developers to prove they can be in compliance.
Planning Board Chairman Wayne Hayward warned the Board of Health against taking any action without the advice of counsel, saying dont allow yourself to be pressured by the 35 people here.
His comments were met with boos and yells from Windwise members.
DeTerra said he would wait to make a decision until the Board of Health could meet with selectmen and town counsel.
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