January 14, 2008
Chilton, WI 53014
Subject: Proposed WES noise ordinance
Attn: Township Board:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board and citizens of Calumet County for allowing me to briefly present my views on the proposed Ordinance. Please let me introduce myself. My name is George Kamperman. I live in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin where I have my home and office. I have been a professional consultant in acoustics for 55 years. I was also the person selected by your committee to conduct the independent review of the proposed ordinance’s noise related sections and appendices. A review that concluded the ordinance is important for Calumet County. Now, one might wonder why I am writing to the Calumet County Board. It is because I feel strongly that the County needs to adopt the Ordinance with its rules for sound among other things.
Before I discuss the Ordinance I would like to provide you with a summary of my experience. After discharge from the Navy at the end of World War II, I entered college, proceeding to MIT's graduate program studying under and working for Dr. Leo Beranek, a Professor at MIT and the Director of the MIT Acoustics Laboratory. Acoustics, as we know it today, was in its infancy in the 1950’s and Dr. Beranek's course and labs were ‘the place’ for research and practice. After graduating I continued working with Dr. Beranek for nine years at Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) in the Boston area. In 1960, I was asked to establish an office for (BBN) in Chicago. I ran that office until 1972 when I left to establish my own company, Kamperman Associates, Inc.
I have worked on noise control projects including design of early Jet Engine Test Facilities and consulted on every large rocket project in the Country including Cape Canaveral and Apollo. During the 1970's my focus expanded to industrial and community noise control. I consulted on the siting and sound control of many outdoor amphitheaters across the Country. Pioneered the study of stone quarry blasting noise impact on the nearby residential structures and residents. My research on steel rollercoasters has resulted in significantly quieter coasters at many locations near residents. The US Army now has quieter field electric generators based on my design work. I established environmental noise emission criteria and noise control for new power plants in Port Washington and Oak Creek. I have worked with government agencies at the local, state, and federal level on community noise standards and other policy level work. I have had a special relationship with the State of Illinois's EPA which has a community noise standard that is primarily based on my work. I have also served on ANSI and SAE standards committees dealing with sound measuring instrumentation and noise measurement methodology. I am a Board Certified Member of INCE (which I helped to found), a Fellow Member of the Acoustical Society of America, and a member of the National Council of Acoustical Consultants.
I think that we all agree that Wind Energy Systems can help reduce our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels for generating electricity. There is also no doubt in recent decades industrial wind turbine designers and manufacturers have been successful in reducing noise from operating wind turbines. Wind turbine design has matured to the point that very little additional noise reduction is possible for a given size wind turbine. However, wind turbines are continuing to increase in size resulting in increased noise emission.
If wind energy systems were located in urban areas they would not be considered a major new noise source. But, that is not where the development is occurring. Wind turbine systems are being located in rural areas where sound levels are very quiet, especially in the evening and nighttime and where the communities have a higher expectation for peace and quiet than do urban communities.
The proposed ordinance considers the impact of industrial grade wind energy systems for both audible and non-audible sound. For audible sound it permits the WES to add up to five dBA to evening and nighttime background sound levels. This is equivalent to 200 percent increase in nighttime traffic flow throughout the area. Anyone would clearly notice such a five dBA increase in noise levels. In many communities, a 5dBA increase would not normally be judged highly annoying. But, the nature of the sounds in rural communities is different. Rural areas are considerably quieter than urban communities. The sounds in rural community are normally set by nature. Noise from wind energy systems is sufficient to mask the natural sounds, especially during evening and nighttime. Studies of existing wind farms in the US and Europe show that people respond differently to wind energy system noise than to traditional transportation and industrial noise common in urban areas and therefore much better studied.
Historically environmental noise impact upon residents has been based on numerous traffic noise studies conducted worldwide. Studies of noise annoyance from wind turbines show that traffic noise annoyance models are not valid for determining annoyance response to wind turbine noise. The percent of highly annoyed residents is much greater for wind turbine noise than it is for traffic noise at the same sound level.
It is now understood that wind turbines can generate maximum power (and noise) on clear calm nights. Thus, it can be very quiet outside a residence on a clear calm night and the winds aloft are enough to drive the wind turbines to their maximum output capacity. Dr. G. P. van den Berg clearly demonstrated in his thesis how nighttime can produce high winds aloft and calm wind at ground level. He also shows that sleep disturbance is the number one issue when there is noise impact from nearby wind turbines. Dr. van den Berg has written his thesis “The Sound of High Winds” for both a technical and non-technical reader. I believe this to be the best source on all aspects of wind turbine noise. The entire thesis is published on the Internet and is available for no cost at: (http://www.windaction.org/documents/3623).
Second, there are legitimate questions about whether wind energy systems produce low frequency sounds and, if so, whether those sounds produce direct effects on the health of people who live close to them. Numerous studies are under way to relate turbine noise exposure and long-term health effects. While these studies are underway, the Ordinance protects Calumet by setting low frequency sound limits that should be protective and prevent introducing new risks into the community.
One thing that I have observed during my long professional experience is that the communities with good standards grow in an orderly manner while communities with bad or no standards have continuing conflicts and disputes.
The proposed WES Ordinance is designed to accommodate the differences in the many options available to the developers for siting wind energy systems. Its purpose is to preserve or protect the public’s health and safety from a new type of industry; an industry that we know little about and that brings many unknowns to your community. The ordinance’s noise rules address both audible and non-audible sound and provide for a maximum limit on the wind turbine’s noise impact at near-by residences. It contains detailed noise measurement procedures based on recognized national standards for accurately assessing environmental noise level both before and after licensing and operation of a wind turbine facility. It is a good set of rules to help guide future growth in your community without compromising those things that make your community special.
The Board has an important choice before them:
First, I see Calumet County and its residents at a major point. The Board must decide how to manage the introduction of Wind Energy Systems into your community. The decisions made today will affect the community for years to come. Good or Bad. By adopting rules to guide how the wind energy systems are introduced into the community, you can gain the benefit a new industrial partner brings, while protecting the community from new risks.
Second, if Calumet County decides to do nothing, the community and its residents become passive participants in the way WES development progresses. The default is to let the State Public Service Commission and the Wind Farm developers control a big part of your future. By adopting this ordinance in its current form, the Board can be assured that you have given both the community and the developers the best guidelines for future development. Guidance designed to accommodate WES development while protecting the sensitive natural environment in the County and the health and welfare of the more vulnerable members of their community.
George Kamperman, P.E., INCE Bd. Cert.
Kamperman Associates Inc.