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by Jonathan Thomas
The recent placement of a meteorological tower on Christy Hill brought approximately 20 people—many of who objected to the 100-foot structure—to a meeting of the Peninsula Power group. The meeting was held on August 12 in the Sedgwick Elementary School library.
For some of these people, this was the follow-up to their appearance at the Sedgwick Planning Board two nights earlier. (See Town Topics, this issue.) At that meeting, residents Pete Douvarjo and Nicole Gray made statements and presented a petition protesting the placement of the new meteorological tower. The tower is located approximately one-half mile from the nearest of their residences. The final phase of its installation was completed on Sunday, August 8.
The tower is intended to provide data on wind speed and other characteristics over a one-year period, as the first step in determining whether it is feasible to erect wind turbines on the site. (See August 5 issue of The Weekly Packet.)
A second copy of the group’s petition, with 23 signatures by nearby residents, was presented at the Peninsula Power meeting. It read, “We, the undersigned, hereby inform you of our opposition to the wind turbine project that is being planned for a location near our residences.”
Following nearly two hours of discussion and debate, Douvarjo, who said he was just speaking for himself, said he “did not feel this is even close to being resolved. I don’t feel a whole lot better about it, and will continue to question [it].”
Sandy Cohen, speaking on behalf of Peninsula Power, said in reply, “The lines of communication are open. And that I feel is valuable.”
Tensions had been strained going into the meeting because area residents didn’t think they had been given adequate notice when the location of the meteorological tower was changed from Caterpillar Hill to Christy Hill.
Paul Trowbridge, leader of the Peninsula Power group, apologized for the delay in getting the letters out, noting that volunteers do all the work.
The letter, dated August 6, that was sent to area residents included a map and a brochure outlining a proposed feasibility study that would look at the issues, “including noise, shadow flicker, impact on birds and other species,” and how the proposed turbine(s) would look from various places.
Other subjects to be addressed in the feasibility study would be the size and type of turbines that might be used, how they would be connected to Bangor Hydro’s grid, how the project would be financed, and how the project would benefit the local community.
Resident Nick Emlen was one of the first to speak. He said that when he gave permission to cross his land for the meteorological tower several weeks ago, he was much less informed about wind power than he is now. He said that he agreed with the goals of Peninsula Power to increase Maine’s energy self-sufficiency. He said, however, that current technology had not yet produced wind turbines that are quiet enough to be close to residential areas.
Several other speakers also addressed noise issues, and how sound levels are measured, and how accurately they can be predicted by computer modeling. Noise problems at the installations on Vinalhaven and in the town of Freedom were referred to repeatedly.
One attendee, James Highsmith, said he has studied wind energy extensively across the country. He said he had stayed with some of the Vinalhaven residents who have been outspoken about noise problems. He said he concluded that their concerns are “completely valid and need to be seriously looked at.”
Another topic of discussion in the meeting was the choice of the consultant who would do the feasibility study. Cohen said that Peninsula Power has been considering using the Island Institute of Rockland. He noted that although they did the study for Vinalhaven, where there have been problems, Cohen said that a lot has been learned since then, and that they are worth considering.
Seasonal resident Tom McNulty, who works for a company that does other types of consulting, suggested that the feasibility study project be put out to bid, and observed that it is good to have competition for such work.
Gray, who drafted the petition and helped organize her neighbors, said, “I’m not against wind power. I just really think we need to be careful.” She and others expressed concerns about such issues as the impact on property values, the need for a business plan, and the uncertainty in projections about the economic viability of this or any other wind power project.
As the meeting was coming to a close, there was talk about a group going together to see firsthand the tower sites either in Vinalhaven or in Freedom.
The next Peninsula Power meeting will be Thursday, August 26, at 7 p.m. in the Sedgwick school library.