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The turbine turmoil: South Berwick residents, officials discuss pros and cons of wind energy

[T]here are some negatives associated with the increasingly popular form of alternative energy, according to a University of New Hampshire expert. But the cons - mainly noise and vibrations from the rotating turbines - are generally things people can live with, UNH assistant professor of geography Mary Lemcke said. In South Berwick, a 300-foot-high ridge across from Marshwood High School is being eyed as a possible location for a wind farm. A Cape Neddick-based alternative energy company is conducting a yearlong wind study there with the hopes a wind farm would be viable. For Wisconsin resident Gerry Meyer, however, the sound of five 400-foot-tall wind turbines located within three quarters of a mile of his home is simply unbearable.

Besides the obvious environmental benefits of wind farms, there are some negatives associated with the increasingly popular form of alternative energy, according to a University of New Hampshire expert.

But the cons - mainly noise and vibrations from the rotating turbines - are generally things people can live with, UNH assistant professor of geography Mary Lemcke said.

In South Berwick, a 300-foot-high ridge across from Marshwood High School is being eyed as a possible location for a wind farm. A Cape Neddick-based alternative energy company is conducting a yearlong wind study there with the hopes a wind farm would be viable.

For Wisconsin resident Gerry Meyer, however, the sound of five 400-foot-tall wind turbines located within three quarters of a mile of his home is simply unbearable.

"It sounds like a jet," Meyer said in a recent telephone interview. He also compared the sound to a steady beat of someone's heart heard through a stethoscope.

Another drawback of the turbines for Meyer is "shadow flicker" - the effect sunlight has as it passes through the spinning turbine blades.

"It would be like if you had 50 flashbulbs in your house going off at the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Besides the obvious environmental benefits of wind farms, there are some negatives associated with the increasingly popular form of alternative energy, according to a University of New Hampshire expert.

But the cons - mainly noise and vibrations from the rotating turbines - are generally things people can live with, UNH assistant professor of geography Mary Lemcke said.

In South Berwick, a 300-foot-high ridge across from Marshwood High School is being eyed as a possible location for a wind farm. A Cape Neddick-based alternative energy company is conducting a yearlong wind study there with the hopes a wind farm would be viable.

For Wisconsin resident Gerry Meyer, however, the sound of five 400-foot-tall wind turbines located within three quarters of a mile of his home is simply unbearable.

"It sounds like a jet," Meyer said in a recent telephone interview. He also compared the sound to a steady beat of someone's heart heard through a stethoscope.

Another drawback of the turbines for Meyer is "shadow flicker" - the effect sunlight has as it passes through the spinning turbine blades.

"It would be like if you had 50 flashbulbs in your house going off at the same time," Meyer said.

The turbines, built by a Chicago, Ill.-based company, were installed near Meyer's home in March. He was initially on the fence about the project but is now staunchly against it.

Anne Stephenson, a member of GreenUp! South Berwick, has an opposite opinion of the sound of turbines. She has heard a 241-foot turbine in operation at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Mass.

"The noise is wonderful," she said, comparing it to a soft drone of ocean waves.

"It's restful to watch ... those people who think they're a blight on the landscape have it all wrong," Stephenson said.

Another negative effect of wind farms, on the other hand, is that turbine blades have been known to kill birds, Lemcke said, which could become an issue for endangered species such as the bald eagle. The closest eagle nest to South Berwick, however, is located north of Portland in the Freeport-Bath area, according to the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Lemcke trumpeted the positive aspects of wind farms, saying they are a good economical choice because wind power is not subject to the increasing prices fossil fuels are.

For turbines to be effective, the wind speed needs to be at least 10 mph, she said. The wind atop the ridge in South Berwick reaches in excess of 10 mph, according to Dean Scontras, vice president of business development of Ra Power Solutions, the company conducting the wind study.

Charles Lynch, who owns the land where the ridge is located, did not return a phone message last week.

Lynch had been in talks with Ra Power Solutions about installing the anemometers, commonly known as wind gauges.

The time frame for a wind farm actually being constructed in South Berwick is unknown; mostly likely it would take at least a few years, according to officials.

Ra Power Solutions would need to file for an application with ISO New England - the operator of Maine's power grid. Currently there are 27 proposed wind project proposals in ISO's review queue, as the technology has gained popularity in the last few years, according to ISO spokesperson Erin O'Brien.

Fifteen of the proposals are for projects in Maine - mostly in the northern part of the state, where the largest wind farm in New England is located at Mars Hill. There are no commercial wind farms in southern Maine.

"Not all of those (projects) that are part of the queue will be built," O'Brien cautioned. Projects have to meet environmental and generation standards, she said.

Of the 350 generating units that power the New England grid, only a handful are wind-related, she added.

Ra Power Solutions would also need to obtain a permit with the state Department of Environmental Protection. The construction of a wind farm requires building access roads and transmission lines, and DEP would grant a permit based on possible impacts to groundwater and wildlife, according to Kristen Chamberlain, one of the wind licensing project managers for the department.

Scontras called the permitting process for wind farms a "slow-moving animal."

He said if the results of the South Berwick wind study are positive, up to 300-foot-high wind turbines could be installed. There is currently a national shortage of wind turbine parts due to increased demand - resulting in delayed construction time frames - but that wouldn't affect smaller-scale projects that Ra Power Solutions pursues, Scontras said.

He said if the company had all its permitting complete today, its supplier could deliver turbine parts by June. Realistically, though, he said construction would not begin for two to three years or more.

"I wish it were sooner and I wish it were faster," Scontras said.

Stephenson said she was excited when she heard the company was conducting a wind study in South Berwick."It's the start of a conversation we need to have in town about locally generated energy," she said. "Having clean, renewable energy is something everyone can agree on."


Source: http://www.fosters.com/apps...

OCT 23 2008
https://www.windaction.org/posts/17610-the-turbine-turmoil-south-berwick-residents-officials-discuss-pros-and-cons-of-wind-energy
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