Library filed under Noise from Vermont
The board released its draft version of the new rules in March, and the board members held four meetings this week to hear from the public and from wind and sound experts as they get ready to finalize the sound standards.
Prospective neighbors of wind turbines heard all the promises: “Quiet as a library.” “Like a baby’s breath.” “The same decibel level as a refrigerator.” The more brazen wind developers claimed “you will not hear them.” Then the four hundred and fifty foot wind towers with their bus-size nacelles and three-bladed fans were built. Sixteen in Sheffield, four on Georgia Mountain, twenty-one in Lowell. And neighbors learned the truth. Yes, you can hear them. They sound like “a jet plane that never lands,” or “sneakers in a drier,” or there is a “thump thump thump” or a “whoosh whoosh whoosh” as the blade passes the tower, causing something called amplitude modulation.
If the new rule is adopted as proposed, sound could not exceed 42 decibels during the day and 35 decibels at night. ...The new rules also require turbines to be at least 10 times their height from the nearest home. A 500-foot turbine, for example, would have to be 5,000 feet from the nearest home.
State regulators have proposed new sound limits for wind turbines that some renewable energy proponents say would effectively ban new utility-scale turbines from Vermont.
“Vermont Wind has deflected its non-compliance since 2011 and Mr. Brouha’s proposal to adhere to Vermont Wind’s original methodology ends the pretense,” argues Anderson. As the independent sound monitoring firm hired by the DPS, Acentech confirmed, Anderson argues, “…if Vermont Wind had tested with windows open, Mr. Brouha and the State of Vermont would not be here today. The proof of compliance is in the proper execution of the method and using the methodology that Vermont Wind used to get us here should be the one that ends this inquiry.”
Critics of industrial-scale wind farms say the Vermont Public Service Board’s new sound standards are a step in the right direction but ultimately may not help Vermonters. “On the surface it is a big improvement over the current standard, and over the first draft, but there will be more public process, and the industry will fight against what I view as still inadequate to address all the issues,” said Annette Smith, director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
The Public Service Board has issued its draft rules on wind turbine sound that, if adopted, would put much stronger restrictions on wind development in the state.
Editor’s note: This commentary is by Annette Smith, of Danby, who is the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment.
“The PSB has sent us a clear message that we may as well stop filing complaints when GMCW is in violation,” said Melodie McLane, who issued the complaint.
Blomberg’s presentation was most clear when it was most simple, never more so than when he presented a list of six problems with industrial wind noise and six ostensibly simple solutions. Blomberg’s list stated regulatory techniques for wind turbine sound are too complicated, and suggested using setbacks, a mandatory distance between any industrial wind project and a homeowner’s house or even property line, and metrics based on maximum sound outputs rather than average sound outputs.
At a meeting Friday in the Capitol Plaza Hotel, Stephen Ambrose, a sound consultant and member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering, argued that sound levels permitted in Vermont are too high and are causing sleeplessness, distress and other health-related symptoms.
At a special hearing Thursday, representatives from Georgia Mountain Wind appeared before the Vermont Public Service Board to appeal a ruling that wind turbines have violated noise and weather-related specifications listed in the project’s certificate of public good.
A hearing officer for the Public Service Board has recommended that Green Mountain Community Wind — the company led by Vermont renewable-energy pioneer David Blittersdorf — be found in violation of its permit for operating wind turbines on Georgia Mountain with iced blades. ...The iced blades produced unusually loud noise, said Melodie McLane.
Once it was just another cabin on a Vermont hillside. Now it’s an emblem in the debate over noise from the growing wind energy industry.
The issue of sound, and its effects on neighboring property owners, has become the brightest flashpoint in the wind-energy debate. And opponents of ridgeline turbines, like Rodgers, hope data from the state-funded sound-monitoring equipment will bolster their case.
Brouha and his attorney, Denise Anderson, had contended that it had been proven on the record that the company’s permit conditions were violated already, but the state has decided to order further testing in the matter, in a recent order.
The standards stipulate that interior sound be measured with windows open in the summer, closed in the winter and partly open during October and April. Opponents of large-scale wind power say allowing measurements with windows closed is a departure that violates lawmakers’ intention.
The board was asked to come up with the interim rules after Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a renewable energy siting bill following a special veto session in June.
Brouha’s case involves his argument that Condition 8 of the CPG has been violated “…because indoor sound levels measured at Mr. Brouha’s residence exceeded the 30 dBA criterion…based on testing conducted by his expert, Noise Pollution Clearinghouse, and, according to Mr. Brouha, confirmed by the Department’s (Department of Public Service) expert.”
Residents living half a mile from a set of four wind turbines near Milton wrote in their comments to the Public Service Board that, while they’re not trained acoustical experts, experiences at their home convinced them the existing sound limits have been set too high. Melodie and Scott McLane live three-quarters of a mile from the project, and they say certain wind conditions and low ambient noise sometimes (often at night) combine to blow disturbing levels of sound their direction.