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33dB town noise limits spur request for state approval of NH wind project

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Timbertop Wind has asked the New Hampshire state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) to assume jurisdiction over a proposed 5-turbine wind farm that straddles the town line between Temple and New Ipswich.  The SEC always has jurisdiction over projects of 30MW or more; the Timbertop project is only 15MW, so the SEC will decide later this winter whether to get involved.

The request came in part due to some differences between the Temple and New Ipswich siting regulations, though the primary concern noted by by Adam Cohen of Timbertop is the noise limits imposed by 2012 ordinances passed in both towns, which set a maximum noise level of 33dB on non-participating neighbors’ property.  “While the ordinance originally adopted in New Ipswich in 2010 was reasonable, the ordinances as adopted in New Ipswich and Temple in 2012 impose substantive requirements inconsistent with SEC precedent and state law,” Timbertop’s recent application to the SEC states.

In some other rural towns, noise complaints become more common as sound levels top 35dB, with sound levels of 40-45dB creating significant community annoyance.  The 33dB limit appears to be an attempt to greatly minimize the chance of serious noise issues for any neighbors, though turbines may still be slightly audible on some nights; see this recent post on noise studies in Woodstock, Maine, with noise levels at about what would be allowed under this ordinance.  

New Ipswich Planning Board Vice-Chair Liz Freeman said hat the board felt that it was the right level for a rural town like New Ipswich. “The Planning Board did not think it would be prohibitive and we did not think it was unreasonable,” she said. “It was based on recommendations from consultants with many years of experience on community noise issues.”  The wind ordinances were adopted with large majorities in both towns; Ed Decker, a New Ipswich Planning Board member, stresses that “The will of the people of New Ipswich was made clear by their votes, and it’s inappropriate for the state to override the people of New Ipswich.” 

See this detailed article in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript for more.

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