Portsmouth High School Wind Turbine Setbacks
Posted in the Middletown Forum
#1 Feb 24, 2013
D. Public Safety
There were no specific public-safety siting criteria noted in the other state’s siting criteria. One
could argue all of the other siting distances would constitute public-safety criteria. In the case of
Rhode Island, all sites being investigated are located on DEM controlled property. In many
instances, the locations are at public beaches or at areas where public recreation activities take
place. Criteria should be set that would protect the public from unforeseen mechanical or
maintenance problems. A suggested criteria could be 1½ times the height of the turbine and it be
applied to all trails, blue ways and other areas where the public could be injured by a mechanical
Safe setbacks: How far should wind turbines be from homes?
Let's start with what one manufacturer considers to be safe for its workers. The safety regulations for the Vestas V90, with a 300-ft rotor span and a total height of 410 feet, tell operators and technicians to stay 1,300 feet from an operating turbine -- over 3 times its total height -- unless absolutely necessary.
That already is a much greater distance than many regulations currently require as a minimum distance between wind turbines and homes, and it is concerned only with safety, not with noise, shadow flicker, or visual intrusion.
In February 2008, a 10-year-old Vestas turbine with a total height of less than 200 feet broke apart in a storm. Large pieces of the blades flew as far as 500 meters (1,640 feet)-- more than 8 times its total height.
The Fuhrländer turbine planned for Barrington, R.I., is 328 feet tall with a rotor diameter of 77 meters, or just over 250 feet (sweeping more than an acre of vertical air space). According to one news report, the manufacturer recommends a setback of 1,500 feet -- over 4.5 times the total height. In Wisconsin, where towns can regulate utility zoning for health and safety concerns, ordinances generally specify a setback of one-half mile (2,640 ft) to residences and workplaces.
But that may just be enough to protect the turbines from each other, not to adequately protect the peace and health of neighbors.
When part of an array, turbines should be at least 10 rotor diameters apart to avoid turbulence from each other. In the case of the proposed 77-meter rotor span in Barrington, that would be 770 meters, or 2,525 feet. For the Gamesa G87, that's 2,850 feet; for the Vestas V90, 2,950 feet -- well over half a mile.
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