TOWNSEND — With energy costs and worries about the environment both rising, alternate ways of generating electricity are spreading in popularity.
The Planning Board has been discussing the possibility of wind farms in Townsend, and drafting a bylaw to regulate them.
“I got called from the building enforcement officer last year saying someone had inquired about wind farms,” said Chairman Stanley Vladyka. “We had nothing in our bylaws, so I decided to write something.”
Using existing bylaws that regulate cell towers, Vladyka created a draft of a wind farm bylaw.
Already having gone through multiple revisions, there were still concerns over the current language of the new bylaw at Monday night’s meeting.
The current draft allows wind farms only with a special permit that needs to be renewed every five years.
“There’s no way that I would do this,” said member Louis Kiklis. He said a small system would cost, conservatively, $20,000. A system capable of generating 1,200 watts would cost near $60,000. Kiklis said it would take a minimum of 15 years for the investment to break even, with the permit having already been renewed and renewed again.
Member Jeffrey Peduzzi said, “I’d have no objection to getting rid of the five-year limit.” Peduzzi said that as long as the reason behind the five-year limit was upheld, things would work.
“I want to encourage these as much as possible, and anything that would unduly burden the wind farmer, I’m not in favor of,” said Peduzzi.
“On the other hand, I’m familiar with rotating machinery and some sort of check and balance needs to be put in place to make sure its safe to operate,” said Peduzzi.
The wind towers can be as large as lighthouses, said Vladyka.
General Electric is currently making smaller models, but the fans could cause some disturbances for neighbors.
“With a wind tower is it possible that it’s a public nuisance,” said Peduzzi.
The towers could cause unwanted shade, or reflect light off the blades to cause a stroboscopic effect. There’s also noise associated with wind towers.
The issues would initially be dealt with when the tower was approved, but there could be some degradation over time.
“It’s true that an electric motor can increase in decibels as it ages,” said Peduzzi.
Vladyka added that the settling of the ground at the base of the tower could cause it to lean unsafely.
Kiklis suggested that there be safety inspection from someone qualified to monitor a wind tower.
Planning Board administrative assistant Jeanne Hollows said that if the wind tower stopped complying with the special permit, the town could have it removed.
The board agreed the removal option would eliminate the need for a five-year renewal.
The board also agreed that there should be some language differentiating a residential wind tower and a commercial one, based on its primary purpose.
Vladyka said he will make revisions to the proposed bylaw based on the discussion, and the new draft will be reviewed at a future work session.