CCC Subcommittee Set To Weigh Merits Of Bourne Turbines
By: Diana T. Barth
Not even learning about a chance to benefit financially from the electricity generated from the seven wind turbines proposed for Bournedale by New Generation Wind LLC quieted the opposition of neighbors, who came out in force Monday night to the third and final public hearing held by the Cape Cod Commission subcommittee charged with making a recommendation on the project to the full commission.
David V. Peterson Jr. of Cape Cod Aggregates announced what he called a Green Rebate Program on behalf of New Generation Wind, a collaboration between the sand and gravel operation, owned by the Lorusso family, and the Ingersoll family’s Panhandle Trust.
That rebate program would give some tangible benefits to the neighbors of the wind turbines, even as, Mr. Peterson said, the project contributes some $200,000 annually into the town’s tax base and helps curtail pollution problems caused by the use of fossil fuel.
He said that the owners of New Generation Wind met with Bourne Town Planner Coreen V. Moore on September 21 and outlined the rebate plan, one that meets the requirements of the town’s wind energy conversion system bylaw. While six of the proposed turbines are 2.5-kilowatt machines classed as commercial, one is a 2-kW machine classed as a neighborhood turbine under Bourne’s bylaw, and needs to serve the neighborhood.
Under the rebate plan, 125 of the turbine’s immediate neighbors would save some 25 to 50 percent on their electricity bills. Those living within 1,000 feet of a turbine would receive up to $1,000 a year in either cash or by a direct credit on their electrical bills. Those from 1,000 to 1,500 feet away would receive an $800 benefit, and those from 1,500 to 2,000 feet would receive $600.
The Bournedale project, the first of its kind on Cape Cod, “seeks to incentivize its neighbors” to embrace both the project and renewable energy, Mr. Peterson said in announcing the program.
Asked if the rebates would be transferable if the property were to be sold, he said that they would, prompting one audience member to shout out that the money might make up for the loss of property values the project would cause.
That comment met with loud applause.
Subcommittee members began Monday’s meeting by hearing from commission staff followed by a presentation by the project proponents that included Mr. Peterson’s comments. They then opened the hearing to public officials, affording an opportunity for Ms. Moore to tell the subcommittee that a review of Bourne’s bylaws, local comprehensive plan, and rules for the Bournedale Overlay District showed that the project appeared to be consistent with town regulations. She said that there would be a more thorough look at how it comports with those regulations when, for example, the historical commission, conservation commission, and planning board look at the project, which is sited in a District of Critical Planning Concern.
Turbines No. 1 and No. 7 do not meet the town bylaw requirements, so New Generation Wind will have to either obtain easements from buildings that are within the turbines’ fall zones or use turbines engineered to collapse and fall within a specified distance. Cape Cod Commission staff had previously reported that some buildings owned by the proponent were closer than 500 feet from one or more of the proposed machines.
Bourne Selectman Stephen F. Mealy stood to report on the selectmen’s majority decision to oppose the project, urging the subcommittee to find that the detriments of the project outweighed its benefits.
Fellow Selectman Jamie J. Sloniecki asked the commissioners present to put all of the material offered by the experts at the meeting on the Cape Cod Commission website.
Subcommittee Chairman John D. Harris then opened the meeting to the general public, asking that comments be restricted to two minutes each and that those who had spoken at previous meetings allow others to go first.
Those comments included a presentation by Westborough attorney Christopher G. Senie, representing 27 Bourne residents. Mr. Senie brought two binders filled with studies he said were missing from those presented by the proponents’ experts. He also brought a marketing expert from Virginia to talk about property values and a noise expert who spoke about the Falmouth turbines.
Several Falmouth residents rose to speak about their experience living near one of that town’s turbines. That testimony was accompanied, later in the evening, by several people who described that machine as outdated technology and the exception rather than the rule.
One meeting attendee brought a huge speaker, offering to “turn up the volume” so that those in the room could hear how the turbines in Vinalhaven, Maine, sounded. Subcommittee members declined his offer to leave the sound running during the remainder of the meeting.
Among those speaking was Susan Daniels, a Glacier Way resident who would be some 800 feet away from the closest of the proposed turbines. She said the 492-foot structure, from base to blade tip, would dominate the sky and be visible from her bedroom and living room windows. She made a heartfelt plea that the project be denied.
Former Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical school superintendent Barry J. Motta was one of the Bourne Financial Development Corporation members speaking for the project, although he expressed his respect for those who disagreed.
Eric Bibler, a Connecticut resident who became involved with wind issues on behalf of a Wellfleet relative, spoke as president of Save Our Seashore, a group opposing the Cape Wind proposal for offshore wind turbines. Mr. Bibler disseminated some 75 or so CDs containing information opposing wind turbines to Bourne officials this past week.
In all, some 35 people spoke on issues ranging from the possibility of ice being thrown from a turbine blade to global warming as a consequence of continued reliance on fossil fuels.
At the beginning of the meeting, Cape Cod Commission staff member Page Czepiga reviewed the latest staff report with subcommittee members. She outlined those areas where the project was not consistent with Barnstable’s Regional Policy Plan. They included issues of the amount of open space that would be required to be set aside, as well as issues arising from the 3,400 hallows of lubricants that will be contained high above the ground within the nacelle, or engine compartment, of the turbine. How the project will offset the presence of that material in a potential public water supply area is in question. The proponent suggested Cape Cod Aggregates would not go forward with recently formulated plans, not yet built or permitted, to site gasoline and diesel tanks on its property. The staff, in turn, suggested deed restrictions that permanently eliminate any storage of such materials on the site.
There are also questions as to the presence and use of fuel and other materials during turbine construction and whether the vegetable-based fuel that will be used to run the transformers that would be placed near the turbines meets the definition of “hazardous.”
The presence of the turbines within scenic vistas might also be problematic.
One other concern raised by the staff report, a need for more economic information, was addressed during the proponent’s presentation.
Carlos V. Pineda of Clear Planet Energy provided economic information to the panel.
Mr. Pineda, the project manager for New Generation Wind, told subcommittee members that an experienced development team was in place, the project had “established sponsors,” and that it was already working with NStar in Plymouth regarding connections to the grid. Subcommittee members also heard that energy from wind turbines, the cheapest energy source, would displace the most expensive energy first, providing a “leveling effect” on the market.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ms. Czepiga also told attendees that the Cape Cod Commission had no standards applicable specifically to wind turbines. The Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates is now creating turbine standards, but they will not be applicable to the New Generation Wind project.
Issues such as noise, shadow flicker, health effects, and others will be considered by the subcommittee, however, as it weighs the project’s benefits versus its detriments.
New Generation Wind’s noise expert also spoke, discussing the type of noise a wind turbine generates, and Robert J. McCunney, MD, an expert in occupational medicine, denied that wind turbines were associated with adverse health effects due to low frequency and infrasound.
One of the proponents’ experts also assured residents, particularly those on Glacier Way, the residential area that has the least background noise of all of those abutting the project, that there were ways to assure that they would be protected from possible noise violations, up to and including shutting down the turbine.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Pineda said that the project is permittable and that the proponents will continue to work with the staff and the commission members on any issues they have.
The subcommittee is expected to formally close its public hearing as of Wednesday, November 24, although the record will remain open, and comments will be accepted, until that full commission hearing takes place, probably sometime in mid-January.
Now that the hearing portion of process is over, the subcommittee will begin meeting to discuss what it has learned, requesting more information from the project proponents if members have questions.
Those meetings will be posted on the Cape Cod Commission website, www.capecodcommission.org, and will be open to the public. No comments from the public will be entertained, however, except at the discretion of the subcommittee.
At the end of this week’s meeting, Mr. Harris urged those members of the public who still had something they wanted to say to put their comments in writing.
They can be sent by e-mail to Ms. Czepiga at firstname.lastname@example.org with “New Generation Wind” in the subject line or by mail to the commission at 3225 Main Street, PO Box 226, Barnstable, MA 02630.
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