Library from Vermont
MONTPELIER — The Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules accepted sound standards crafted by the Public Utilities Commission for wind turbines by a 5-2 vote. This rule-making initiative is a requirement of 2016’s Act 174 energy siting policy.
In approving stricter sound limits for ridgeline wind turbines Thursday afternoon, the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules has managed to upset both sides on the wind energy debate. The proposed sound standards have been in the works for more than a year, and they long ago set off a war of words between the various factions in the wind energy debate.
A group opposing wind turbines in Vermont has taken what its organizers say is an unprecedented step by filing a public records request with several legislators who are reviewing new sound limits for future wind-energy projects. Two of the legislators have already turned over all the requested documents. Six have not.
The rule proposed by the Public Utility Commission sets a 42-decibel limit for wind turbines during the day, when measured 100 feet from the outside of neighboring homes, and a 39-decibel limit at night. The Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules chose to extend the deadline for a vote on the rule.
The committee is reviewing a proposal drafted by the Public Utility Commission, which regulates energy projects in Vermont. PUC Commissioner Margaret Cheney and staff members defended the proposed noise standards before lawmakers at the Statehouse. They said they strike a balance between desirable wind energy and the health of Vermonters who would be subject to the low-middle frequency sounds emanating from machines nearly 500-feet tall.
Representatives of five transmission projects proposed in July in response to the Massachusetts solicitation for 9.45 TWh/year of hydro and Class I renewables (wind, solar or energy storage) tried to explain why their projects should be among those selected in January. Contracts awarded under the MA 83D request for proposals are to be submitted in late April.
The committee’s charge is rather to ask a fairly narrow set of questions about a rule, Benning said, including whether it meets the intent of the legislation that enabled it, whether the rule is arbitrary, and whether its potential economic effects are adequately described. Benning said he’s satisfied the rule meets all these criteria.
The developer of two solar projects in Rutland Town wants to block information from an environmental group — including photographic evidence of heavy use by wildlife in a now-forested site targeted for development — claiming the group obtained the information by trespassing on the firm’s property.
Rather, said CEO Christine Hallquist, the explosion of such projects in that region has overwhelmed the utility’s distribution network to the point that wind turbines are already being forced on some days to curtail energy production in order not to overload the grid.
The Vermont Public Utilities Commission on Thursday refused to reconsider its rejection of the petition for a certificate of public good for Kidder Hill Wind, a two wind turbine project in Irasburg and/or Lowell, saying the application is incomplete without a study of how the project will impact the electric grid.
State regulators sided with the McLanes, generally, and operators will now have to use meteorological data to stop the blades before ice forms. The project's original state permit said the turbines would have to be paused only after ice is detected. (The PUC Order can be found by clicking the document icon to the right.)
Dairy Air Wind was given until August 3 to answer the commission’s questions about the location of the MET tower and exactly when it was put up. But instead, on that day, it took the tower down.
Regional electric utility and grid operators say they are being forced to curtail power sources and that new development may not be possible due to energy grid saturation in northern Vermont.
The town of Charlotte and the Agency of Natural Resources opposed the project in proceedings before the Public Utility Commission (formerly the Public Service Board). The regulatory body agreed the array would detract from the view from Mount Philo. The aesthetics of energy projects are one of the criteria that can trigger a review by the commission.
State regulators have dealt a blow to a proposed wind energy project on Kidder Hill in Irasburg and Lowell.
Seven 499-foot turbines proposed for Rocky Ridge may be the first major energy project in the state to face stringent scrutiny via the approval process of the newly configured Public Service Board. The board, which will change its name to the Vermont Public Utility Commission starting Saturday, issued an order to Swanton Wind on June 22 that sets a higher standard of public accountability.
A key aspect Act 174 is that it allows regions and municipalities more influence over siting wind, solar, hydro or other energy facilities during the Public Service Board permitting process, if they have a certified plan in place.
During the meeting, the most contentious issue was the setback provision, which sets the distance between turbines and homes at 10 times the height of the turbine. Also discussed were proposed decibel sound limits of 39 dBA (A-weighted decibels) at night and 42 dBA during the day. By the end of the morning, the committee voted to push the deadline for adopting new rules back to October.
It's all likely to prove academic, since LCAR is almost certain to vote down the rules sometime after leaf-peeping season. At that point, the PSB would have to resume work on a new set of rules. Given the fact that the board and the Scott administration take a dim view of ridgeline wind and most legislators are in favor of renewable energy including wind, it's going to be very tricky to find a set of rules acceptable to all parties.
A legislative panel has deferred action on a proposal that could have significant impacts on the future of ridgeline wind energy in Vermont.