FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT MONTVILLE’S PROPOSED
WIND TURBINE GENERATOR ORDINANCE
What Is the Purpose of the Wind Turbine Ordinance? The purpose is to protect the health, safety and welfare of all residents of Montville through reasonable regulation of industrial wind plant development. Because industrial wind turbines are relatively new, no existing town ordinances address the full complexity of this issue.
Why Is this Ordinance Necessary? Reports from residents near industrial wind plant installations built too close to where people live are abundant. In Maine we have documentation from residents in Mars Hill, Freedom, and lately Vinalhaven who, through no fault of their own, have had their lives negatively impacted when industrial wind turbines were built too close to them.
Does Montville’s Ordinance Restrict Private Wind Turbines? No. The ordinance does not apply to stand-alone turbines for on-site residential or farm use that are less than 150 feet in height, and under 100 kW generation. For example, MOFGA’s wind turbine is rated at 10 kW and is 80 feet high.
How Big Is an Industrial Wind Turbine? Models currently being used in Maine are about 400 ft tall, the height of a 40 story building. Larger and taller models are being developed and installed. For example, the Sugar Creek Wind One project in Illinois will use turbines over 500 ft tall. And very recently, a proposal was made to the town of Eastbrook, in Maine, where a number of industrial wind turbines rated at 3 MW and 470 feet tall would be placed on the town's Bull Hill whose highest point is only 616 feet in elevation.
Have Any Industrial Wind Turbines Been Proposed for Montville? About a year ago, Hogback Mountain Wind, LLC, from Portland, held meetings with a number of ridge-top land owners about leasing their land to build an industrial wind plant. Because the meetings were private, we do not know exactly what or how many turbines were proposed. Frye Mountain has been mentioned as another possible site. As this document was being prepared, we received information from the towns of Buckfield, Cutler, Jonesport, Lubec and Whiting, that wind developers are seeking to put up industrial wind turbines in lower elevations - on hills below 400' high and parcels as small as 20 acres. This would potentially put in play other locations in our town such as Twitchell Hill, Bolen Hill ridge, Haystack Mountain, Ledge Hill, Whitten Hill, maybe more. See the elevations of other potential wind sites in Montville here.
What Are the Health and Safety Concerns? Despite what the wind industry tells us, wind turbines do make noise and can be intrusive enough in our quiet rural areas that people suffer from sleep deprivation up to a mile or more away. See here. Some people like to compare the turbine noise levels to the noise level of a chainsaw, but while a chainsaw is loud, nobody runs chainsaws inside the home, including in the bedrooms at night – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can turn off the chainsaw when you go to sleep, or want a rest, or have had enough of the noise. You cannot turn off the sound of an industrial wind turbine. Shadow flicker cast by long blades turning with the sun behind them, and strobe lights flashing day and night, are also common concerns for people living nearby. Fire, lightning strikes, structural failure, ice throw, oil leaks, communications interference are safety hazards that can, and do occur in some locations. See here.
Shouldn’t We Just Adopt the State Model Ordinance? Unlike the proposed Montville ordinance, the State’s Model Wind Energy Facility Ordinance has no provision to protect nearby residents from wind turbine noise. It prioritizes wind power development over public health, safety and welfare. Its purpose is “to provide for the construction and operation of Wind Energy Facilities, subject to reasonable conditions...” An example of “reasonable conditions” is a safety setback that is only 1.5 times the height of the turbine, or about 600 feet. Phil Bloomstein’s home in Freedom is just over 1000 feet away from a turbine that makes living in his home of 30+ years very stressful. The 20 families in Mars Hill living as far as 3,500 feet from the wind turbines have seen their lives so harmed that they are suing the town of Mars Hill in 4 separate lawsuits. In Vinalhaven, people living near Fox Island Wind are quickly learning that noise is a problem even 1.5 miles away from the turbines.
Don’t We Need to Become Independent From Foreign Oil? We all want to reduce or eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, and wind developers always give that as a reason to rush to build industrial wind plants. But according to the US Government’s Energy Information Administration’s report released in January 2009, only 5% of Maine’s electricity is generated by burning oil. The same report says that nationwide, only 1.6 % of our total electricity is generated from oil. The same report issued a year later in January of 2010 now says that the percentage of our total electricity, nationwide, that is generated from oil dropped to 1.1%. And, it is not clear how these industrial wind turbines will reduce our consumption of home heating oil.
Will Our Electric Bills Be Lower? Industrial wind energy development in Montville will not lower our electric bills. Electricity generated in Montville would not stay in Montville. Since Maine already produces more electricity than it consumes, new sources of generation will primarily supply southern New England. Actually, Maine residents will have to pay a portion of the costs required to upgrade and expand the State’s electrical transmission grid so it can carry this additional electricity out of state.
How Many Jobs Will Be Created? The turbines are remotely monitored by computer and, depending on the number of turbines only one to a few full or part-time employees responsible for maintenance are needed. The bulk of jobs created by wind energy projects are temporary construction jobs, often contracted out to large, specialized companies from outside the region. Local loggers or contractors who do gravel and excavation work may see some temporary jobs. In Freedom, only one local permanent job has been created by the turbine installation.
How Much Will Our Property Taxes Go Down? Because Montville’s town valuation would go up, our share of school appropriations and county taxes would go up. At the same time, state subsidies would go down (a “wealthier” town with higher valuation gets smaller subsidies) and taxpayers in Montville would have to make up the difference. At a presentation in Dixmont, Mike Rogers, Supervisor of Municipal Services for Maine Revenue Service calculated the most optimistic savings on a property assessed at $100,000 would be $120 - $150. Because industrial wind turbines are allowed to depreciate at a double accelerated rate, the tax savings would be even less. In Freedom, to everyone’s surprise, property taxes did not go down; some residents even saw their tax bills increase.
Could Property Values Be Affected? Industrial wind turbines are too new in Maine to have local data, but the experience of other communities in the US shows that houses up to 2 miles away from an industrial wind turbine installation take much longer to sell, if at all, especially if there are noise and flicker concerns. Several independent real estate industry studies show that a home can lose up to 40 percent of its value – provided a buyer can be found – in a good real estate market, and up to twice that amount in a bad one. See here.
How will the Ordinance Affect What I Can Do With My Land? The ordinance seeks to balance the absolute right of landowners to do anything they wish with their land, and the obligation of all townspeople to ensure that industrial construction projects on private land do not endanger the health, safety, and economic welfare of their neighbors or of the community at large. This ordinance encourages responsible development that does not harm or endanger the health, welfare, quality of life of residents, and safeguards the financial worth of their home and property.
Unregulated industrial wind turbine construction on an individual landowner’s land can result in serious consequences to neighbors, including health issues from the noise, flicker and glint of these large industrial machines, physical dangers from ice throw, electrical fires, a collapsing or broken tower or blades, and economic harm due to the decline in neighbors’ property values. In such cases, expensive civil litigation – involving the town as well as landowners – can result, as it did in Mars Hill.