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Wind Development: Studies try to determine if an ill wind blows

Attention over the sound made by wind turbines recently erected in Cohocton has alerted those in nearby towns considering wind projects to the potential effects of noise. But questions remain about what action - if any - towns affected by the turbines should take to protect their citizens. One wind farm has been completed in Cohocton while projects are being considered in the towns of Prattsburgh, Hartsville and Howard.

Bath, N.Y. - Attention over the sound made by wind turbines recently erected in Cohocton has alerted those in nearby towns considering wind projects to the potential effects of noise.

But questions remain about what action - if any - towns affected by the turbines should take to protect their citizens. One wind farm has been completed in Cohocton while projects are being considered in the towns of Prattsburgh, Hartsville and Howard.

Sound experts say noise falls into two general categories - what is heard, and what cannot be heard, but is felt.

While some Cohocton residents have complained the turbine noise is highly disturbing, other residents and visitors say they are not bothered or don't hear the same sounds.

Background - or ambient - sound plays an important role in noise, as do weather conditions and the time of day, according to Richard James, an acoustical engineer.

James said there can be dramatic changes at night even when the atmosphere is defined as "stable." Wind velocities at the turbine hubs can be two to four times greater than the speed recorded at 30 feet while the air is calm at the ground level, he said.

"The result is the wind turbines can be operating at or close to full... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Bath, N.Y. - Attention over the sound made by wind turbines recently erected in Cohocton has alerted those in nearby towns considering wind projects to the potential effects of noise.

But questions remain about what action - if any - towns affected by the turbines should take to protect their citizens. One wind farm has been completed in Cohocton while projects are being considered in the towns of Prattsburgh, Hartsville and Howard.

Sound experts say noise falls into two general categories - what is heard, and what cannot be heard, but is felt.

While some Cohocton residents have complained the turbine noise is highly disturbing, other residents and visitors say they are not bothered or don't hear the same sounds.

Background - or ambient - sound plays an important role in noise, as do weather conditions and the time of day, according to Richard James, an acoustical engineer.

James said there can be dramatic changes at night even when the atmosphere is defined as "stable." Wind velocities at the turbine hubs can be two to four times greater than the speed recorded at 30 feet while the air is calm at the ground level, he said.

"The result is the wind turbines can be operating at or close to full capacity while it is very quiet outside the nearby dwellings," James said.

Studies by Dr. Nina Pierpont, a resident of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, raise concerns about the effect of the noise that can be heard, including sleep deprivation, dizziness, nausea and tinnitus.

But sounds absorbed by the body could have a dramatic impact years later, with suspected damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and trachea, Pierpont said in a recent report.

Those studies have gained an ear from other medical professionals, including Rumford Hospital in Maine, which recently requested the state enact a year-long moratorium on wind farm construction because of the potential long-term health effects.

The World Health Organization has also warned about the effect of noise on childrens' nervous systems, which are more sensitive to noise.

What appears to be the simplest solution is changing the distances wind turbines have to be away from homes. The current minimum setback, set by the Steuben Count Industrial Development Agency, is 1,200 feet and 1,375 feet depending on the background noise of the turbine site.
Across the country, setbacks vary widely. In Port Alma, Ont., Canada, setbacks keep wind turbines roughly 2,300 feet from residences along the Lake Erie shoreline.

The Medical Academy of Medicine in France recommends setbacks of 0.9 miles due to health concerns. Pierpont recommends 1-mile setbacks.

But siting turbines is a science, with each location determined by a number of factors, including wind and the proximity of other turbines, according to John Cogan of the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency.

The financial stakes are high for Cohocton and Prattsburgh, both of which have limited tax bases.

The First Wind energy company is paying Cohocton nearly $11.5 million over the next 20 years for the 50 turbines it built along the hill tops there.

Prattsburgh would receive $3 million over the next 20 years from EcoGen if that company is allowed to build 17 wind turbines in town.

Both towns will also receive annual payments for tax breaks the developers will receive.

In Cohocton, town officials say they are working with First Wind to find solutions to noise complaints.

In Prattsburgh, town board members are negotiating with developer EcoGen, while considering a moratorium on construction.

Town supervisors in Howard and Hartsville are divided on the impact the turbines could have on their communities.

Howard Town Supervisor Don Evia said the town won't totally ignore the concerns, but added there is a process to resolve noise issues.

"I don't believe you go back and say you restudy the thing," he said.

The town has confidence in its wind company EverPower and wind consultant LaBella. LaBella is also the primary consultant for the Steuben County Industrial Development Agency.

But in Hartsville, which declared a moratorium stopping construction so more study can be done, town Supervisor Steve Dombert said noise is an important issue.

"Obviously, they have problem in Cohocton and they're trying to determine the extent of it," Dombert said. "It seems it's very annoying and even intolerable. And there may be no remedy."

The energy industry itself is showing signs of trying to address the problem of noise.

At a recent meeting of the American Wind Energy Association, Mark Bastasch, of the engineering firm CH2M Hill, said the industry must "provide clarity once and for all" on the sound question.

Bastasch recommended assembling an advisory panel to determine whether more research is needed.

"Turbines can be heard," he said.

Editor's note | This is the second part of a two-part look at developing concerns over wind farms in parts of Steuben County. (click here to read part 1)


Source: http://www.the-leader.com/h...

APR 7 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/19730-wind-development-studies-try-to-determine-if-an-ill-wind-blows
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