OWLS HEAD –– Concerns about the impact of the Jericho Rise Wind Farm on nearby property owners and speculation that additional wind projects could be in the offing have prompted town officials to propose a review of the local law that governs this type of project.
Councilman Wayne Rogers called on his fellow Town Board members to explore modifications to the town law adopted prior to the construction of the Jericho Rise project to address some of the problems that have arisen since the wind farm began operation at the end of last year.
Any changes made to the law would not affect the eight turbine towers in Bellmont erected as part of the 37-tower project, but they would prevent a repetition of the problems if another wind project were to come to the town, Rogers said.
The area in the town north of County Route 24 –– where many of the towers are located –– has the potential for additional development, he said.
“We need to make sure we protect all the people in that area,” Rogers said.
There are currently no announced plans for additional wind power development in Bellmont, although projects have been proposed for nearby Chateaugay and Churubusco.
Rogers said the major complaint voiced by town residents is the noise generated by the turbine blades.
“We have a serious noise problem” created by the turbines, Rogers said, citing complaints he had received from people living near the tower sites.
However, earlier in the meeting, Supervisor H. Bruce Russell had reported that, since the end of June, no complaints had been filed through a hotline established specifically to alert town and Jericho Rise officials to problems related to the wind farm.
Rogers said he would like to see two major changes to the existing town wind farm law –– one to increase the distance towers can be built from adjacent properties and one to reduce the level of noise the towers can generate. The current town law limits the noise to 50 decibels audible at a distance of 1,320 feet from the tower; Rogers said he would like to see that limit reduced to 40 decibels during the day and 35 at night.
Recent tests conducted by EDP Renewables, the parent company of the wind farm project, in conjunction with town officials found only brief, sporadic noise levels above the 50-decibel limit. Officials in both Bellmont and Chateaugay, where the other 29 towers in the wind farm are located, have sought
to have the tests conducted by an independent firm, but so far EDP has refused to permit those tests, citing language in the host community agreement.
Russell noted that the restrictions in the town law were based on data derived from towers that were capped at a height of 400 feet. However, the Jericho Rise towers are almost 500 feet tall, a difference which may explain why the noise may be more bothersome even if it is within the decibel limit, he said.
Russell also noted that both the noise level and setback requirements are found in a single section of the town law, so changes could be made without the need for a significant revision of the measure.
Rogers’ proposals are expected to be discussed in greater depth at the Town Board’s September meeting.