Resident Outcry Leads Berlin To Relocate Wind Turbine

BERLIN — With the discomfort of residents clear, the Berlin Town Council reached a consensus this week that a new wind turbine, which would be the town’s first, will not be located on Schoolfield Street. Instead, a property on Old Ocean City Boulevard will be pitched to the council as an alternative site.

“After the last meeting and thinking about it, we’re actually entertaining the thought of maybe moving [the turbine] to a different location, which would be the Rayne’s property off of Old Ocean City Boulevard,” said Electric Utility Director Tim Lawrence. “That’s in a commercial district, there’s not much residential around there, and we’re just thinking that might be a better site to put it at.”

Lawrence is referring to the property formerly home to Rayne’s Sand and Gravel, which has since moved from 10011 Old Ocean City Boulevard to Route 50. The location is currently owned by the town after being annexed years ago.

While a property on Schoolfield Street adjacent to a town power station was the primary site tapped for the wind turbine when it was first brought before the council last month, Lawrence reminded the council residents in that area remain opposed to its installation. Resident Linda Bowen spoke to the council Monday, stating that she and the majority of her neighbors do not want a turbine in the neighborhood.

“I do have a petition from, I think I have just about everyone on the street but one, that we have signed  that we do not want [the turbine] in our area,” she said.

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At a previous council meeting, Bowen and other Schoolfield Street residents protested the installation of the turbine because they felt they were not given enough warning or information before the council was ready to sign a deal with DDU Magnetics for a 50KW, 85-foot tall turbine.

“I think the statement that stuck out in my mind is, ‘we need more information,’” said Mayor Gee Williams, recalling resident’s concerns. “And that’s fine.”

The town had made outreach attempts prior to the council’s previous meeting, though Bowen and other residents had not felt satisfied by them. Prior to Monday’s meeting, Lawrence and the council had offered residents even more information, including a letter from DDU outlining the project and goals as well as specifications for the turbine. For example, a number of residents had mentioned fears that the turbine would produce excessive noise. However, the DDU letter claims that the machine will generate sounds within a 1,390 square foot “swept area” of 42 decibels which will be equivalent to “the hum made by a fridge or the rustling of leaves at approximately 380 yards from human habitation.”

The turbine is so quiet due to its unique design that is gearless and uses fixed blades, explained Lawrence. As traditional wind turbines are considered discreet, this one would be nearly silent, he promised.

Despite the assurances Schoolfield residents remained opposed to the idea.

But, according to Lawrence, the alternative site on Old Ocean City Boulevard might be a better location anyway.

“We just thought that area might be better suited for it because it’s in an industrial area, plus we kind of felt that it would fit better in there,” he said.

The nearest residential home is between 500 and 600 feet east of the alternative site, added Lawrence.

Should the turbine be built in Berlin, DDU Magnetics President Doug Richards has told the council that it will be the first of its kind — a direct drive turbine without a rotor cog and built without the expensive rare earth materials that can drive-up prices for traditional constructs. Because it will also serve as a model to be shown to potential investors, Berlin is being offered the $125,000 turbine for a fraction of the cost. The town will only be asked to provide the land and spend $3,000 to $4,000 on set-up. DDU will be responsible for maintenance.

Councilman Dean Burrell asked the council whether Schoolfield Street has been officially taken off of the table.

“So it is the consensus of the council that the Schoolfield location is not a consideration and now you will now be looking for an alternative site?” he asked.

The rest of the council responded in the affirmative.

Using the Schoolfield Street resident complaints as a template, Lawrence said he immediately began an awareness campaign along Old Ocean City Boulevard. This week he distributed large information packets to every property in proximity to the site while also having personal conversations with several residents in the area. So far there have been no complaints, he said, and the site will officially be recommended to the council at their next meeting unless more residents begin to protest.