Public hearing on wind power ordinance slated

Posted Jan. 15, 2010, at 7:43 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:36 a.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — The public will have its first opportunity to comment on the proposed municipal commercial wind energy facility ordinance during a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, at the town office.

A little over a year in the making, the proposed ordinance grew out of discussions surrounding the potential of a large-scale wind farm running through this northern Maine town.

“Around October 2008 Horizon Wind Energy reached out to landowners about leasing land for the project,” said John Bannen, Fort Kent’s director of planning and economic development. “By December things had started to come to a head [and] there were a lot of questions and concerns.”

In response to those concerns, the Town Council appointed a wind study committee later that year which has been meeting regularly since then drafting the proposed ordinance.

“Now it’s time to put that plan before the public for comment,” Bannen said.

High among the concerns during a series of public informational meetings about any wind farms in the Fort Kent area were sound and the so-called “flicker” or light shadow effect of the large power-producing turbines.

Drawing on research and information from industry experts, the wind study committee opted to base the proposed setback limits on sound rather than establishing one set distance.

According to the proposed ordinance, “sound levels of commercial wind energy facilities shall not exceed a maximum of 45 dBA measured at nonparticipating landowners’ property lines and shall not exceed a maximum of 42 dBA measured at occupied buildings on nonparticipating landowners’ property.”

The proposed ordinance also stipulates that any commercial wind energy facilities be sited and designed to avoid “unreasonable adverse shadow flicker effect” on any occupied building located on a nonparticipating landowners’ property.

Included in the proposed ordinance is language governing turbine size, visual appearance, overspeed controls and decommissioning.

“The goal of the [wind study] committee was to research the benefits and negative points of wind power,” committee chair Robert Berube said. “The committee did a lot of work and had help from a lot of people like [attorney] Robert Plourde and [University of Maine at Fort Kent professor of forestry and environmental sciences] Dave Hobbins.”

Now, Berube said, it is up to the public to look at all sides of the issue and make a decision on the proposed ordinance.

Neither Bannen nor Berube remain convinced large-scale wind is in Fort Kent’s immediate future.

“I’m not sure it’s the solution to our problems,” Berube said.

“The future of wind power up here depends on construction of transmission lines downstate,” Bannen said. “Unless or until those are built, wind power won’t happen here.”

Once the public comments on the proposed ordinance, the Town Council will review the document and present it to the voters at the annual town meeting in March.

A complete copy of the proposed ordinance is available from the Fort Kent Office of Planning and Economic Development or online at www.fortkent.org/windpower.pdf

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