It’s “wind week” at the Maine state legislature, where the Utilities and Energy Committee is hearing two days of testimony on a slate of 14 bills that have been introduced to regulate wind energy development. One bill would mandate property value guarantees, and another would impose setbacks of a mile and a quarter from homes. Maine’s been a hot spot for community noise issues, with a ridgeline wind farm in Mars Hill spurring noise and health complaints from most of the residents within a half mile or so, and a three-turbine farm in Vinalhaven triggering noise issues for around half of the similarly nearby neighbors.
Legislators heard starkly differing views from supporters of the wind industry and community groups that have been pushing for more protection for landowners who don’t want to hear turbines from their homes. Predictably enough, the rhetoric was at times extreme, with one opponent positing that development up til now has been “a well-planned legislative fraud perpetrated on the citizens of Maine.” On the other side of the coin, a local realtor said, “I have seen no negative impacts whatsoever on real estate values in Mars Hill,” but didn’t specify whether any of the homes within a half mile or so that have been severely impacted have been on the market. (Ed. note: while most evidence agrees that prices of homes a mile or more from wind farms are not dramatically affected, there is less clarity or consensus about the few homes within a half mile or mile; in rare cases, homes in this range have been abandoned by owners. It’s clear that easy reassurances about impacts in the community at large, ie within several miles or within sight of turbines, often don’t reflect the experiences of those living closest.)
Several people living near wind power facilities questioned whether a few hundred temporary construction jobs is a worthwhile trade-off when the turbines force some homeowners who support the local economy year-round to move away.
“I’m listening to employee after employee come up and say, ‘I’m more important than somebody’s home,’” said Carrie Bennett, who lives near a three-turbine facility near Freedom. “Do you want to buy my house? Do you want to live in my house? Of course not.”