p-windstudy-012809 East End wind study postponed Schools to conduct community outreach

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PORTLAND — The School Department postponed a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 27, on a proposed wind study at the East End Community School on Munjoy Hill.
The district is seeking a zone change to install a 100-foot tower and anemometer at the corner of Eastern Promenade and North Street. Wind speeds would be measured and analyzed for a year.
If winds are strong enough, the district would seek to install a wind turbine to be used to power the school. Before that would happen, city officials would draft a comprehensive, windmill ordinance.
Residents of the 80-unit Promenade Towers condominium complex, however, oppose the study because it could lead to installation of a wind turbine. The residents fear a drop in their property values, in addition to adverse health affects, known by some as wind turbine syndrome.
Early estimates indicate that a 200- to 250-foot turbine would be needed to fully power the school, but City Councilor Kevin Donoghue said neighborhood compatibility, not the school’s energy needs, should determine the size of any potential turbine.
Facilities Director Doug Sherwood said the School Department intends to move forward with the request after it conducts outreach with residents of the Promenade Towers and any other group interested in learning more about the project.
That outreach could extend to the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Association, which complained last week that the city hadn’t informed the group of the plans.
Sherwood said he doesn’t feel the department was caught off guard by the condo owners’ objections, since it conducted research and addressed some of the safety concerns in the original grant application to Efficiency Maine, which has loaned the city the wind-measuring equipment for free.
“We did research the topic and the site,” Sherwood said. “We hadn’t heard of wind turbine syndrome until the workshop, but (we) will take a closer look.”
Wind turbine syndrome is condition coined by New York pediatrician Dr. Nina Pierpoint. Her views however, are not widely accepted by doctors or alternative energy proponents.
Until the public hearing was scheduled, Sherwood said the district had received nothing but positive feedback from the community.
Sherwood said the district does not have plans to conduct a feasibility study on the health and safety effects of potentially placing a wind turbine in a densely populated area, as requested by the condo association.
“I most interested in meeting with residents of Promenade Towers to appreciate the depth and breadth of their concerns before conducting a feasibility study,” he said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net.