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Noise study fails to quiet some concerns

There was no dead air in the packed Huron County Circuit Court Room Wednesday as local residents and officials heard a presentation regarding findings from the Michigan Wind I noise study. During the Huron County Planning Commission's Feb. 3 meeting, John Deere Wind Energy officials presented the findings from the sound study, which found while the majority of the Michigan Wind I development near Ubly is in compliance, three sites measured exceeded the noise limit set in the county's wind ordinance by 1 decibel.

BAD AXE - There was no dead air in the packed Huron County Circuit Court Room Wednesday as local residents and officials heard a presentation regarding findings from the Michigan Wind I noise study.

During the Huron County Planning Commission's Feb. 3 meeting, John Deere Wind Energy officials presented the findings from the sound study, which found while the majority of the Michigan Wind I development near Ubly is in compliance, three sites measured exceeded the noise limit set in the county's wind ordinance by 1 decibel.

The study - which was conducted last fall by Epsilon Associates, Inc. of Massachusetts - included a total of 14 locations, of which seven locations were at addresses of individuals who had submitted noise complaints.

Full coverage of last month's presentation was published in the Feb. 4 Huron Daily Tribune. While Wednesday's presentation did review some of the information presented last month, new details were given as the lead scientist on the sound study, Robert D. O'Neal was present.

O'Neal explained Epsilon has been working specifically on measuring and modeling wind farms since 2004. He noted the study Epsilon prepared is very... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

BAD AXE - There was no dead air in the packed Huron County Circuit Court Room Wednesday as local residents and officials heard a presentation regarding findings from the Michigan Wind I noise study.

During the Huron County Planning Commission's Feb. 3 meeting, John Deere Wind Energy officials presented the findings from the sound study, which found while the majority of the Michigan Wind I development near Ubly is in compliance, three sites measured exceeded the noise limit set in the county's wind ordinance by 1 decibel.

The study - which was conducted last fall by Epsilon Associates, Inc. of Massachusetts - included a total of 14 locations, of which seven locations were at addresses of individuals who had submitted noise complaints.

Full coverage of last month's presentation was published in the Feb. 4 Huron Daily Tribune. While Wednesday's presentation did review some of the information presented last month, new details were given as the lead scientist on the sound study, Robert D. O'Neal was present.

O'Neal explained Epsilon has been working specifically on measuring and modeling wind farms since 2004. He noted the study Epsilon prepared is very comprehensive.

He said the study was conducted to see if the Michigan Wind I development is in compliance with Huron County's zoning ordinance, not whether people like it or are happy with it.

The locations tested were as close as 1,000 feet and as far as 1,900 feet away from wind turbines, O'Neal said. The times sound levels were measured included in the early and mid morning, early and mid afternoon, and evening and late night.

He said the study aimed at testing noise when turbines were producing enough power that they were at the level of power input that makes the turbine the loudest. He said wind gusts and other noise greatly affected the noise levels as well.

As part of the study, noise was tested at times when turbines were operating and at times when they were not operating, O'Neal said. He noted testing noise levels when the turbines were not operating helped establish the ambient noise level that exists without the turbines and accounts for other noises generated by things like farm equipment and traffic that is passing by.

He said that because the ordinance is clear that a wind energy facility is not to exceed 50 decibels or 5 decibels above the ambient noise level, the study concluded that 11 of the 14 sites tested passed the ordinance's requirements, and three did not. John Deere officials said last month that the turbines at the sites that exceeded the county's ordinance by 1 decibel have since been adjusted to be in compliance with the county's ordinance.

But overall, the study found it was difficult to pick out the turbine sound from the ambient sound at many locations, O'Neal said.

When asked about whether the topography of the land affects the noise levels, he said in general, topography is relatively unimportant in this instance because the sound was measured so close to the turbines. If the sounds were measured from a farther distance, then topography would come into play, O'Neal said.

Also, he said, snow does not make an appreciable difference when testing over such short distances.

Some louder than others about noise, study

Prior to the presentation, there was a public comment period in which each attendee, if they wished, was given three minutes to give input or ask questions about the noise study presentation.

Some of those in attendance expressed support for wind energy development in Huron County, including two residents who reported they experienced no problems with the turbines that are located near their homes.

Elkton resident Jeff Krohn said he lives in the Harvest Wind Farm, with one turbine located roughly 1,300 feet northeast from his home, another 1,500 feet to the west, and a third roughly 1,700 feet to the southwest of his property.

"We think the wind mills are just fine," he said, adding there was only one time in two years that he and his family heard the turbines, and that was during a large winter storm.

Krohn added that he has two sons, and they haven't had any issues with the turbines. Also, area wildlife has not been affected, he said.

"We don't have a problem with them, and we hope more of them are built," Krohn said, adding that he does not receive any money from John Deere because the nearby turbines are on land owned by his father.

The other resident who reported to have no problems living near wind turbines was a Bingham Township official who stated he has turbines on his properties and does not hear them in his home. He said from a financial point of view, he has really benefited, as have the other landowners who are part of wind energy developments in Huron County.

Not everyone who was at the meeting shared similar experiences, however, as there were some others in attendance who either live near turbines and say low frequency vibrations from the turbines are negatively affecting their health, or who visited or know of someone lives in a home near wind turbines and gets sick from the low frequency vibrations.

"The low frequency is the bad guy in this situation ... We have people in this room that are affected very drastically," said Lake Township resident Charlie Henry, whose wife, Jeanne, said she had to leave the home of a friend she was visiting in Ubly because she felt so sick from the low frequency vibrations.

Malcolm A. Swinbanks, a professional consultant engineer with a Ph.D. who has worked on a variety of problems related to unsteady dynamics, noise, vibration, shock and acoustics, and currently resides in Port Hope, also expressed some concerns during the public comment of Wednesday's meeting.

He reported about 30 years ago, he worked in a collaboration on several low-frequency noise installations, and has heard first-hand the experience of some people who have experienced problems associated with low frequency noise and infrasound during his.

Swinbanks said some of the reports individuals from the Ubly area have reported are consistent with others he's met in the past who reported experiencing physical discomfort that was a result of wind turbine noise.

He stressed the sensitivity of different individuals varies enormously, with some being affected and others being barely able to detect anything. This was illustrated, Swinbanks said, by the different accounts given from individuals who live in or near wind park developments.

Swinbanks added there is absolutely nothing wrong with wind turbines, it's just important to understand the affects they can have on some people.

He said that given that the individuals who lodged complaints are all in or at the edge of the park, it seems clear that they have genuine complaints when it comes to low frequency noise.

Swinbanks said while there are no immediate, direct health affects from low frequency noise, low frequency noise can disturb sleep, and that loss of sleep over an extended period of time can cause big health problems.

He expressed concerns that the information presented during Wednesday's noise study presentation showed the study focused on measuring decibels, which does not take into account low-frequency noise.

O'Neal said the purpose of the study was not to study on low-frequency noise, but to measure whether the project is in compliance with Huron County's zoning ordinance. Because the noise standards in the county's ordinance pertain to decibels - i.e. that noise from turbines cannot exceed 50 decibels - the study measured decibels.

Though it wasn't the focus of the study, the study did include some low frequency data, O'Neal said. That data found the low-frequency levels when the turbines were shut off were virtually the same as when they were turned on.

But Swinbanks countered that the methodology used to study the low frequency noise was incorrect.

Minden City resident Robert McLean was concerned that the turbines, while they might not be above 45 or decibels, increasing the noise level by 10 decibels on a normally quiet night will result in big problems for those living nearby. That is because he said an increase of 10 decibels is perceived by the human ear as being twice as loud.

"Can you explain what going from 35 to 50 (decibels) means?" he asked O'Neal.

O'Neal responded that this isn't relative to the matter in terms of the county ordinance. Also, he noted, when conditions are very quiet, such as 25 or 35 decibels, it means there is no wind, so the turbines are not running. He said when it is windy, the ambient noise is louder, so it does not sound like noise levels are doubled when the turbines are in operation.

In regard to the health issues some living near turbines have reported, Charlie Henry said, "money is not an end all, and if it affects the health of our citizens, it's wrong."

Henry, along with others, also were concerned the wind developments will negatively affect property values because people won't be able to sell their homes because no buyer will want to live near a wind farm.

Huron County Planning Commissioner Dr. Robert Oaks also expressed concerns that if the property values dramatically declined, so too would the county's tax base, which would make it difficult to provide necessary services, and ultimately make it hard to live here.

Oaks made those comments during discussion that followed the noise study presentation and was in regard to a variety of ordinance amendments.


Source: http://www.michigansthumb.c...

MAR 5 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/24928-noise-study-fails-to-quiet-some-concerns
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