Changes to the rules governing wind power sites were overwhelmingly approved at a Vinalhaven Special Town Meeting held on December 15.
The revisions defined small, medium and large wind power projects and set up different engineering reporting requirements based on the size of the project, according to Marjorie Stratton, Vinalhaven town manager. Modifications were also made to the noise and setback requirements.
Of the 50 voters who attended the Town Meeting, only one opposed the revisions, Stratton said.
The revisions were needed to clarify the island’s wind power ordinance after the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative approved a wind power project for Vinalhaven in July. That vote to go ahead with the project was 383 in favor and 5 opposed.
“I am delighted that the town continues to support this project and we are looking forward to moving towards successful completion,” said Dr. George Baker, CEO of Fox Islands Wind LLC, the company created by the electric cooperative to run the wind project.
Fox Island Wind is proposing to build two or three, 1.5-megawatt wind turbines on Vinalhaven that could provide virtually all the electricity needed for both Vinalhaven and North Haven, the two islands served by the electric co-op.
When Vinalhaven adopted its wind power ordinance in March 2007 there were no state guidelines and no pending projects for the island. “We never really thought that the co-op was going to develop a project, we didn’t even have that in mind when it was adopted,” said Stratton. “We want to keep all property owners in mind and try to protect everybody,” said Stratton.
Under the new ordinance a large wind power facility is defined as having more than four turbines and a medium facility would have two, three or four turbines, or one turbine, if it has the capacity to generate at least .1 megawatts (or 100 kilowatts) of electricity. A small facility is defined as having one turbine that has the capacity to generate less than 100 kilowatts of electricity.
In addition, a wind power facility is now defined to include all turbines, buildings, structures and equipment used to produce energy from wind. Building permits will also be required for all structures that are part of a wind power project.
At the two hearings held for the wind power ordinance revisions, those who attended were checking to make sure that state standards for wind power would be met in the revisions, according to Charlotte Goodhue, a member of the Vinalhaven Planning Board and the Vinalhaven Planning Commission, which works on ordinance revisions.
Stratton said the project has islanders’ support and a lot of momentum. “It is a huge project for a small community,” she said. “It is all so new and untested-and that we are the ones who will be out in front of it-that is exciting on the one hand and then scary on the other.”
The revised ordinance requires safety setbacks only for turbines, not other structures in a wind power facility, to be measured from the edge of the base of the turbine to the lot line, public road or highway. Setbacks from homes and public roads need to be at least 1.25 times the total height of the turbine from the nearest home.
The height of the hub of a wind turbine cannot be more than 450 feet tall; and the height of a turbine for a small project cannot be more than 80 feet tall.
Finally, the revisions also include a section on how the turbines impact the view (called “viewscape”). Turbines should have a minimal impact on viewscape within a one-mile radius of the project’s principal structures; the Planning Board will assess that impact. In addition, lighting should keep to a minimum pattern of light and shade on building and nearby properties.