The small Berkshire community of Hancock, population 775, is not taking a change in their reimbursement lying down, not while they negotiate a new agreement for payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) with the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corporation.
Sherman Derby, left, is chair of the board of selectmen. Reporting in the Berkshire Eagle (“Hancock, Brodie Mountain wind power firm at odds over payments” 3/4/15), Scott Stafford quotes Derby:
Green energy is great, but when they have to pay green money, it’s a problem. They’re making more money than they thought they would, but we’re not getting anything.
The issue for Hancock is to hold out for a PILOT value of $156,600 to match the original agreement which expired in 2014. The Berkshire Wind coop of 14 communities has paid $147,000, but the select board voted to return the check.
iBerkshires staff writer Stephen Dravis indicates that Hancock believes the cooperative is getting a deal with its proposal (“Hancock Suing Berkshire Wind Over PILOT Payments” 3/3/15).
Derby said that while it is true personal property—like the turbines—depreciate, the utility is generating more power from the 10 turbines than it projected before they were built and if it agreed to another three-year PILOT, it would be able to lock in the current tax rate.
“Do you think Hancock’s tax rate is going to be $2.48 three years from now?” Derby said. “They’re getting the benefit of that rate for three years. That would make up any depreciation they got.”
The ongoing dispute escalated on Tuesday when the Hancock board voted to authorize a suit against the power cooperative, WAMC radio’s Jim Levulis reported March 4th in “Hancock Suing Berkshire Wind Cooperative Over Payment Disputes.” Listen to the Midday Magazine report.
According to their own press release, issued November 2014, the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative is doing very well.
Wind speeds atop Brodie Mountain average about 8 meters/second, making it one of the best inland wind sites in Massachusetts. The project achieved its expected average capacity factor of 40% during the past year, meaning it produced about 40% of its potential output, which is above wind industry standards.
The 10-turbine, 15-megawatt project began operation at Brodie Mountain in Hancock MA in 2011.
Iberdrola missed a few deadlines on its way to meeting a self-imposed schedule to bring its turbines into line with the Mass. noise limits. As a result, the DEP issued a consent order with mandated deadlines, followed by a fine of $1000 per day if the violations continue. To comply with the order, Iberdrola must respond to complaints about noise. A recent complaint brought a less-than-stellar response, as indicated in the report. Analysis by acoustician Stephen Ambrose noted the data gaps, which he detailed in a subsequent letter to the Mass. DEP.
My professional opinion is that this wind-turbine compliance noise test is not credible and does not show that the turbines meet the Mass DEP noise limits.
Click on the images to see the letter and the RSG report data.
Observers have noted that whenever sound monitoring is done at the Hoosac, significant data points are eliminated from the report findings.
Wind turbine noise is different from other types of noise, as acoustician Stephen Ambrose explains through two charts. The first is from the study done in Sweden in 2004, when Eja Pedersen and Kerstin Waye illustrated their findings with the top graph below. In the second chart, Ambrose and Robert Rand developed a schematic to show the results of numerous studies which independently echo the lived experience of wind turbine neighbors. Too loud, which often means too close, is predictable from the volume of complaints. For more on turbine acoustics, click on Wind Turbine Noise Complaint Predictions Made Easy, or link to the “Too Close for Comfort” segment of Chronicle.
Acoustician Steven Cooper was commissioned by the Australian utility, Pacific Hydro, to investigate the complaints of families near the wind plant at Cape Bridgewater, Australia. The Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm Acoustic Study is a 235-page report, packed with data, including six appendices which amplify and detail the findings of the study.
According to the Waubra Foundation’s analysis (“Acoustic Engineering Investigation at Cape Bridgewater Wind Facility” 2/1/15),
The purpose of the investigation was simply to find out what was causing the symptoms and sensations, resulting in sleep disturbance and health damage, reported to Pacific Hydro between 2009 and 2014 by the residents of three homes sited between 600 – 1600 metres [from just over 1/3 mile to 1 mile] from wind turbines sited at the Cape Bridgewater Wind Project in Victoria, Australia. [see maps below]
In The Australian “Turbines may well blow an ill wind over locals, ‘first’ study shows” (1/21/15), Graham Lloyd reported :
Funded by wind farm operator Pacific Hydro, the study was conducted at Cape Bridgewater in southwest Victoria where residents have long complained about headaches, chest pains and sleep loss but have been told it was all in their minds.
There were several “firsts” to this study.
- Cooper took a variety of measurements in and around the three homes during both times when the turbines were operating and when they were shut down–with the cooperation of Pacific Hydro.
- The measurements went beyond standard dB(A), to capture harmonics peculiar to wind turbines as the blades pass by the stationary mast. This yielded new readings, branded by Cooper “wind turbine signature” or WTS.* Infrasound below the audible range was captured, as well.
- The residents kept continuous diaries, recording their experience of noise (which can be heard), vibration (which can be felt), and sensations (which were considered to be reactions to infrasound). The diary entries were later correlated with recorded measurements.
The WCVB TV5 Boston news magazine, Chronicle, noted the issues raised by wind plants for turbine neighbors in Kingston (“Too Close for Comfort” 1/22/15). Noise and strobing are the tangible effects, but lack of transparency in the siting process and in the production output is also cited as a factor in the piece.
Reporter Kathryn Gallerani revisited the piece in “Channel 5 program focuses on Kingston wind” in Wicked Local Kingston (2/2/15), giving readers the quotes from the piece, which are absent from WCVB’s transcript.
“Our quality of life is important, and I don’t think the town of Kingston took the residents into consideration that would be the most affected by the turbine,” she said. “I don’t think anybody did it maliciously. I don’t think people realized what they were actually voting on. Even the people in charge didn’t realize what they were doing. They weren’t educated.”
Chronicle‘s J. C. Monahan interviewed wind neighbor Doreen Reilly and wind booster Tom Bott, Kingston’s Town Planner. Predictably Bott labeled suffers as being annoyed. Monahan offered push-back, “for people in that situation it’s more than an annoyance, it reduces their quality of life.” Neither brought up the technical/medical use of the term “annoyance” to mean severe impacts such as sleep disruption, headaches, nausea, vertigo and other health effects attributable to industrial wind turbines.
For more on the cost of wind power plant development and on the findings of noise testing at multiple locations, click over to Wind Wise Massachusetts’ Facebook page.
Bills introduced in the new legislative session address wind turbine impacts, costs to rate payers and communities, and adverse health effects.
The text of these bills is on the Legislation WWMA Supports – 2015-2016 page.
H2032 ———– (sponsored by Representative Peake)
H2919 ———– (sponsored by Representative Vieira)
SD1755 ———-(sponsored by Senator Tarr)
H2914 ———– (sponsored by Representative Smola)
H2913 ———– (sponsored by Representative Smola)
H2883 ———– (sponsored by Representative Heroux)
H733 ————- (sponsored by Representative Peake)
H758 ————- (sponsored by Representative Smola)
To find the name and contact information of your state senator and of your state representative, go to www.malegislature.gov and click on Find A Legislator in the upper center of the screen.
|H2032||Resolve to establish a commission to study the health impacts from wind turbines to protect the health of the citizens of the commonwealth (Representative Peake).|
|H2919||“Wind Energy Relief Act” (Representative Vieira) establishes a fund to compensate people, businesses, and municipalities adversely impacted by wind turbines, and another fund to help compensate municipalities to remove or relocate wind turbines. Both funds are supported by monies already deducted from our electricity bills.|
|SD1755||An Act relative to the green communities act (Senator Tarr) requires an investigation of the impact of the Green Communities Act, including a review and analysis of current and future benchmarks. It also requires that the findings be made public.|
|H2914||An Act relative to accountability of public funds used for wind turbines (Representative Smola) requires the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to post monthly updates of public funds spent for wind turbines. It also requires that the information be made public.|
|H2913||An Act Promoting Transparency in Wind Generated Electricity Production (Representative Smola) requires wind projects to submit production statistics (megawatts per hour) if the project received public funds. It also requires the audited production statistics to be published.|
|H2883||“The Electricity Bill Transparency Act” (Representative Heroux) establishes a framework to ensure electricity rate savings by requiring annual, public reports of ratepayer cost and benefits under the Green Communities Act. It also requires that costs for programs and policies under the Green Communities Act be itemized on electric bills.|
|H733||An Act Relative to Noise Pollution (Representative Peake) includes low frequency noise, infrasound and aerodynamic amplitude in MassDEP’s power to regulate noise.|
|H758||An Act Relative to Noise and Air Pollution (Representative Smola) includes low frequency noise, infrasound, and Aerodynamic Amplitude Modulation in the definitions of noise and air pollution regulated by MassDEP.|
In response to the Globe South’s question “Should the Baker administration support wind energy?” Joanne Levesque argued that
Our state’s energy policy should never sacrifice the rights of private property owners or promote public harm. Current support for wind power projects is premised on allowing harm to our neighbors. Violation of the law is not how a civil society should adopt solutions to climate-change challenges.
A resident of Duxbury, Levesque serves on the Wind Advisory Committee. She urged the Baker administration to
immediately do what 44 Massachusetts cities and towns have done in the past 10 years — that is to deny the construction of new land-based wind projects. The new administration should also do what Falmouth has been forced to do by a Barnstable Superior Court judge who ruled on the evidence: reduce the operational hours of existing turbines to protect their neighbors from further harm.
The pro/con discussion appeared in the Boston Globe’s metro South edition on January 10, 2015.