The state Department of Public Service and a citizen group are both urging significant changes in the proposed wind sound monitoring plan for the Deerfield Wind project under construction along Route 8 in Searsburg and Readsboro.
In comments submitted June 15 to the Public Service Board, which is considering the company’s monitoring plan, the DPS questions Deerfield Wind’s role in selecting or supervising the monitoring contractor and the specific methods of monitoring to determine the effects of noise on residences in the area.
The DPS requested that the board “reject the proposed sound monitoring protocol and require Deerfield Wind to submit a revised protocol” that includes the department’s suggested changes. The department’s stance was echoed by the Wind Action Group and Thomas Shea, who owns property in Searsburg and is an intervenor in the project permit process.
The 15-turbine wind generating project is being developed by Avangrid Renewables, which hopes to bring the facility online by late this year.
The DPS points out that the company’s proposal, filed in May, says the developer will choose a contractor to do sound monitoring, “subject to the board’s approval.”
But the department opposes that and says, “All sound monitoring should be conducted by a sound monitoring expert selected by and supervised by a state agency designated by the Public Service Board.”
The DPS also objected to reference in the monitoring plan to a “neutral, mutually acceptable, third-party observer to be selected by the Department of Public Service” for an initial two-week monitoring period to assess compliance with noise requirements.
In addition, the DPS requests changes in the company’s plan for four seasonal monitoring sessions of two weeks each during the first year, proposing instead two annual monitoring sessions of at least five weeks.
Noise complaint resolution protocols requested by the DPS include specifying that a complaint telephone number be given to the town clerks and selectboards, and that neighbors be provided with a number for the site supervisor. The department also wants Deerfield Wind to be required to record complaint information, including weather and operating conditions, in reports to the board and the DPS.
Wind Action Executive Director Lisa Linowes said her group’s objections to the monitoring plan roughly mirror those of the department. Among Wind Action’s major complaints, she said, are that the plan proposes investigating complaints only within 1.5 miles of the project sites, and that only complaints from full-time residents be considered.
Shea is a part-time resident who has been critical of the project. He submitted his comments on the monitoring plan jointly with Wind Action.
Another issue, Linowes said, is whether the monitoring will capture every incident when the turbines exceed their allowed noise levels, given variables of weather, season, level of power generation and other factors. She said the general guidelines are that the noise from the turbines not exceed 45 decibels outside a nearby residence or 30 decibels inside.
Linowes said she believes the Public Service Board will “ask Deerfield to take another look at this plan.”
She said her preference is for the board to hold an informal session to focus on technical aspects of the plan and try to resolve disagreements. She said that would be preferable to exchanging formal written comments and responses by the parties, which would take much longer.
Linowes said the board has asked for a response by June 28 from Deerfield Wind to the comments.
Paul Copleman, spokesman for the developer, could not be reached Monday.