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Should Plymouth Place a Moratorium on Wind Turbines?

Town Meeting will consider a petitioned article to halt permitting for wind turbines for two years, do you believe wind turbines are a detriment to health or are they an eyesore in neighborhoods?

With four wind turbines peeking over the horizon along Route 3 in Kingston and seven more lined up for construction in Plymouth, a group of residents has submitted a petition for a Fall Town Meeting article that would set a two-year moratorium on more permits, and the group is getting support from many people, who say they support “green energy” from across the region.

The framed image of Plymouth Bay lined with offshore turbines located in the Mayflower Meeting Room at Town Hall, as well as the goal of the beginnings of energy independence by 2020, are facing a backlash of opposition.

The Planning Board began its review of the article Monday, as dozens of people, including residents from neighboring towns, spoke against zoning turbines in residential areas and other locations in town that would be considered not only an eyesore, but also a detriment to public health.

Kingston’s municipally owned turbine located on the town’s capped landfill is undergoing a noise study by the state, after neighbors began complaining that the whirring blades are causing health problems ranging from ringing ears and chronic headaches to vertigo and sleep disturbance.

The petition’s author, Kerry Kearney, said he isn’t against wind energy. “I just don’t think they should be built so close to residents,” he told The Boston Globe Monday.

Plymouth was one of the first communities in the state to enact a wind-energy bylaw, in 2005. The town’s Energy Committee chairman, John Corcoran, said the bylaw was originally drafted to allow construction of a municipal wind turbine near the waste-water treatment plant to generate a little income for Plymouth.

“It was going in an area that everybody could accept,” Corcoran said. The turbine was never built, but the bylaw, following a review by the state, was expanded to allow for wind projects on private property in addition to those on municipal land.

Since the bylaw’s enactment, the Zoning Board of Appeals has approved special permits for turbines in four locations: on bogs off Head of the Bay Road; near Hedges Pond Road; near Walmart at Colony Place; and the Balboni commercial-industrial property off Camelot Drive.  

No turbines have been completed, but the Balboni tower is under construction.

Kearney said the biggest flaw is the local bylaw’s distance requirement, which allows a turbine to be no closer than its full height, from the ground to blade tip, from a neighboring property line.

“There are lots of examples of where there are turbines three tower heights away from residents, and people are still struggling with health problems,” Kearney said.

Turbine opponents face strong support for turbines from Senate President Therese Murray, who said last December that she would not support a moratorium on wind turbines in Massachusetts because all options need to be considered to satisfy the state’s future energy needs, according to The Berkshire Eagle.

"There are places where you can put them where they are not harmful to people," Murray said, while answering questions at a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce function at the Country Club of Pittsfield. 

As examples, the Plymouth Democrat referred to two projects in her home district: A windmill going up on a landfill in Kingston and a similar facility that supplies power for dormitories at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne.

"You can’t just cut everything out of the mix," Murray said. "Everything has to be done correctly and they have to be placed in the right place….

"I think wind power has to be part of the solution for our energy fixes," Murray said, "but I don’t believe losing local control is the way to go. So I would have to support my towns that don’t support the siting bill."

However, in a letter to the Plymouth ZOning Board of Appeals in February, Murray said, "It is my strong belief that Industrial size wind turbines do not belong in residential neighborhoods.

"Wind turbines have been a part of the renewable energy conversation in the Commonwealth for some time now and I support wind energy as it has the potential to save cities and towns thousands of dollars and reduce the negative environmental impacts to our Earth. However, we must ensure that municipalities can move forward with turbine projects while preserving the health and well-being of residents. No one should be subject to unnecessary discomfort as a result of any turbine and we need to site these projects responsibly."

Petition articles with sufficient signatures are automatically placed on the Town Meeting warrant, but are reviewed by the town’s attorneys. Based on the legal review, Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said, some sections of the moratorium proposal may need adjustment for Town Meeting to act on it.

For instance, she said, the proposed bylaw would stop building permits from being issued for approved turbines during the moratorium. Those projects, however, would be grandfathered, and could therefore move forward with construction after the moratorium, Arrighi said.

What are your thoughts on wind turbines? Should there be a moratorium on new projects? Should the town continue to issue new permits? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Pat Baker September 27, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Me too, Wedge. As for the drawbacks, I still say wind turbine design is in its infancy. Or maybe toddlerhood. I think the low-frequency issue is real, and could be addressed by some design improvement. The only reason it hasn't been as that no one realized how sound would affect people's health, the main driver was energy production. With all this input and complaint from consumers, I would hope turbine companies return to the drawing board to implement some upgrades. Do we have any sound engineers out there reading this? Is there a way to absorb some of the sound without compromising wind flow? As for the gear boxes failing, when the auto industry finds a model craps out early, they either ditch it in favor of better models, or improve the quality of its parts and manufacture. As someone who has been told I don't get enough sun on my house for solar panels, I am interested in all options. People who live in heavily forested areas might need a good wind turbine. Someone mentioned redesign costs a while back . . . I'd take advantage of new brainstorming opportunities á la TED: crowd-source it, and let some brilliant high-school students without a lot of preconceptions come up with solutions. But I think the industry itself should respond before that.
Marie Jane September 27, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Good to see the subject remains active. Thank you Pat Baker. At 10:52 am on Saturday, September 22, 2012 I wrote a response regarding the Moratorium Issue containing some of the following excerpts and I would like to correct the population of Plymouth information. Haste! Not a good thing! (Population figure should have been 3677.9 *per square mile/2.26 total square miles.) "A moratorium is temporary....Educate yourselves about the facts and fallacies of Industrial Wind Turbines.Do you [does anyone] know beyond reasonable doubt the safe distance between humans and Industrial Wind Turbines?Will you,[anyone] give a written guarantee of safety to the residents?Keep in mind you [Plymouth] are not Iowa (a wind turbine success story according to their governor in the Los Angeles Times):Iowa boasts 54 people per square mile of land, Massachusetts 828 people per square mile, Plymouth MA *3677.9 people in 2.26 square miles[see above].My community is one of the fortunate, our representatives realized that Industrial Wind Turbines were not in the best interest of the people;our project was stopped.We went through the process first embracing the technology until we realized that there were too many questions;no one had the answers.Research,know all the answers,know the most recent known facts done by responsible independent researchers.A temporary delay is necessary.A MORITORIUM is the opportunity to get it right."
lilyloo September 27, 2012 at 01:38 PM
well, for those who question the wisdom of a moratorium i suggest they get a tape of the Sept 24th Scituate Board of health meeting...one member of their town who lives 3,500 feet from their single turbine testified to the degraded quality of life the turbine has had on him and his property...so Mr Mann of permitted Mann boggs, do you have residents that live 3,500 feet or closer...if you do...i suggest you re-consider the claim of "there will be no impacts"...and to mr kearney and his moratorium supporters, i sure wish people would understand what you propose is in the interest of public health and safety as a priority in Plymouth...a noble cause...renewable energy sources should not have such life altering consequences...get the Scituate Board of Health tape and hear what another community now struggles with...
Marie Jane October 05, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Fox News did a story on Industrial Wind Turbines last evening. In case you missed it............. http://www.myfoxboston.com/videoclipId=7804362&topVideoCatNo=238258&autoStart=true
mark cool January 22, 2013 at 01:08 PM
TEMPLATE FOR COMMUNITY WIND: http://www.falmouthmass.us/energy/wtopreport.pdf ~ The most poignant statement in all the report heralds that .. the legacy of our society is intrinsically bound to the principled value of Thy Neighbor ~ “Should health, safety, and well-being of our neighbors carry the same weight as any of the four other interests? We conclude that it should be more heavily weighted above the other interests. Should town unity and reconciliation be weighted the same as climate action implementation or fiscal impacts? We conclude that town unity is second only to the health, safety, and well-being of our neighbors. If the Board of Selectmen seeks to end the tumult surrounding the turbines, then there is only one option.” ~ Multiple Perspectives Stakeholders

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