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Scituate’s Turbine Noise Meets Regs–But Only at Reduced Power

August 7, 2014

“Still Life” according to PL photographer Greg Derr

While the Scituate turbine sits idle awaiting a solution from the Chinese manufacturer,* the Board of Health and the Selectmen have been hearing the preliminary report of the noise testing done by Tech Environmental.

“After three nights of testing in five different locations, owners of the 390-foot-tall wind turbine on the Driftway say noise from the machine falls within state regulations,” according to Jessica Trufant, reporting in the Patriot Ledger in Quincy (“Test results show Scituate turbine noise within state regulations” 8/6/14).

In a submission to Wind Wise, resident Dave Dardi said, “The report stated that the turbine was tested on three separate nights and the highest difference found between low ambient and maximum noise output was 7 dBa.” He asked owner Gordon Deane during the BOH meeting for information that he needed for proper evaluation of the data. Mr Deane stated that he didn’t bring that data with him. Mr Dardi pointed out that “the report indicated the turbine was very seldom above 30% power output and never above 60% during the testing periods and in addition the wind was never from the Southwest.”

Video of the Board of Health meeting is posted on YouTube, “Scituate Board of Health Meeting 7-28-2014.” The BOH pointed out that only three of the four tests were completed and voted to ask for the last test to be done while the turbines are running at intermediate speed and the wind direction from the southwest. They also asked why Tech Environmental had not accommodated parallel sampling by an acoustician for a Scituate community group, and were told there had been last-minute changes to the schedule.

*Trufant had earlier reported on the losses mounting from the turbine’s down-time (Software glitch costs owners of Scituate wind turbine $45,000, 7/30/14).

More on Noise Report at Monroe Turbine

August 3, 2014

In her Greenfield Recorder news article, Study: Monroe turbines too noisy (8/1/14), reporter Diane Broncaccio reveals more details on actions taken to address Hoosac Wind’s noise.

Since the letter was written, Iberdrola Renewables has invited 60 neighbors to an information session, to hear landowners’ concerns, give them copies of the sound test results and discuss the planned modifications.

Those modifications include

∎ Install trailing edge serrations (saw-like edges) on the blades to reduce the overall turbine sound.

∎ Develop an operational protocol to address potential turbine noise for when the blades are coated with ice.

∎ Hire an independent engineering service to “study the tonality in more detail.” According to Western Mass. DEP spokeswoman Catherine Skiba, a tonality study is a detailed analysis of where on the turbine the sounds are coming from.

Skiba said the DEP has received 58 complaints since December 2012. [Note: with no Boards of Health in either Monroe or Florida, residents must complain directly to the MADEP].

For more information on the noise report and DEP response, see Hoosac Wind Fails Noise Test.

This is the first case in Massachusetts that Wind Wise is aware of where a “pure tone” has been noted in noise testing. Trailing edge serrations have been tried in Vinalhaven ME with mixed results.

Serrations are added at Vinalhaven.

In a 2012 report, Addressing Wind Farm Noise Concerns, Jim Cummings of the Acoustic Ecology Institute makes sense of conflicting claims about the efficacy of adding serrated edges.

Serrated edges appear to be the most widely studied, with overall noise reductions of 3-8dB being reported (Barrone, 2011). However, many studies have found that these reductions are frequency-dependent, with reductions in low-frequency noise and increases at higher frequencies (over 2kHz). Serrations may be less effective at low or moderate wind speeds; in some situations, this can be when neighbors find turbine noise most audible.

During its first summer in operation, the three Fox Islands Wind turbines on the island of Vinalhaven, ME, were retrofitted with serrated edges as part of an effort to reduce noise impacts on neighbors…. No formal study of the effects has yet been released, though neighbors report that the serrations seemed to moderate the lower-frequency thumping element of the sound, while slightly increasing the overall whooshing aspects, as the studies summarized in Barrone might suggest (personal communications, 2012).


2014 Schematic from European Wind Energy Association, Barcelona

Meanwhile, at Europe’s Wind Energy Association conference in Barcelona this year, Philip Totaro spoke for the industry in noting:

 “A multitude of technologies have been prototyped for low noise but commercial use is limited except in cases where regulations have required it. Technical solutions could be used in combination, but effects have not been comprehensively studied and data is limited. For blade noise, the serrated trailing edge has been the single most influential technology, but others contribute as well. Turbine controls to derate when noise exceeds a threshold are a simple and cheap solution, but come at the expense of energy loss.”


Hoosac Wind Fails Noise Test

July 28, 2014

Ribbon cutting ceremony December 2012

UPDATE 7-31-14:

WAMC Radio reporter Jim Levulis describes the reaction of the MassDEP to Iberdrola’s mitigation plans for the Hoosac project  “Report Finds Hoosac Turbines Out of Compliance.”

Impacted resident Michael Fairneny is not impressed with the plans:

“Forget this mitigation,” Fairneny said. “I would want curtailment…these things shut down. If they’re found to out of compliance then I want something real done about it. I don’t see them ever being in compliance. I mean they are quiet a few days here and there. But the majority of the days when they’re not tested, if I’m not getting pounded the people on Tilda Hill are getting pounded.”

Hoosac Wind is loud. It’s too loud to comply with  Massachusetts noise limits. That’s why an April 28, 2014 letter to the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection offers remedies for the loud sounds. Iberdrola lists the exceedences measured in tests performed in January and February 2014 at monitoring stations at Tilda Hill Road and Moores Road:

• January 9, 2014 measurements were 42.4 dBA average Lmax at Tilda Hill South and 37.5 dBA average Lmax at Moores Road North. Ambient at those locations was 32.2 DBA and 26.7 dBA, respectively.
• February 20, 2014 measurements were 44.8 dBA average Lmax at Tilda Hill South and 44.4 dBA average Lmax at Moores Road North. Ambient at those locations was 27.8 DBA and 27.5 dBA, respectively. These unusual sound levels are attributed to a blade icing condition.

Too bad the company has not informed residents in Florida and Monroe, as it says in its letter it will do:

In addition to these technical modifications, New England Wind [Iberdrola Renewables] will be contacting neighboring residents inviting them to an information session. In that session New England Wind will listen to the concerns of landowners, discuss the sound test results, and detail our technical modifications. In addition, New England Wind will be offering scheduled tours of the site.

This report confirms what several acousticians noted after reviewing the original noise testing results from April 2013. Rob Rand  analysed the initial acoustic report, and Stephen Ambrose illustrated the issues in “Back to the Future II” for a Townsend, Vermont presentation in November 2013.

The large increase in noise above what is a quiet rural background turns this sparsely populated rural area into an industrial zone. But because wind turbines are not regulated like normal industries, the noise continues through the night.

Among numerous issues raised about the initial testing in 2013 were:

  • The turbines were run at a reduced power, which means that the turbines were producing less electricity and emitting lower noise. Iberdrola hired the acoustician (RSG of Vermont) to do the test and therefore was completely aware of the date and time of the testing.  This was true in the April 2013 testing and again in the latest January and February 2014 testing.  Even though the turbines were run at reduced power they still exceeded the Massachusetts noise pollution regulations.
  • Much of the original April 2013 testing was unattended when the MassDEP guidance says the testing should be “attended,” which means the noise is monitored by a person with a sound meter.
  • The test microphones were inappropriately placed near trees, raising the background level.

Independent acousticians also found raw data tables in the April 2013 test report that indicated noise violations, but the company rejected the data on those sampling occasions because they were assumed to be anomalies.

Before the project was ever built, the original modeled noise assessment indicated to acousticians that there would be “widespread complaints” and “strong appeals to stop the noise.” This modeling was performed on a computer in California, without any background noise measurements done in Florida or Monroe MA.

People whose lives have been impacted by the Hoosac project should have a chance to be heard. They will have ideas for mitigation that allow them to have a good night’s sleep.

Will MADEP Regulate or Not?

July 11, 2014

That is the question posed by Firetower Wind in the Turbines over Troubled Waters post and a key question raised by the approach taken by a DEP assistant commissioner, Douglas Fine (quoted by Kathryn Gallerani reporting in “UPDATE: Kingston Independence turbine exceeds state’s noise threshold during study” 7/10/14). The firm hired to test for compliance in Kingston issued an interim report confirming exceedences on two of the dates it tested.

Douglas Fine, assistant commissioner for planning and evaluation, said Wednesday that DEP has offered its assistance to the Board of Health as it sets a course of action in response to the violations of the state air pollution regulation. He did not foresee a conflict July 21.

Fine said DEP delegates authority for determining a course of action, in collaboration with the turbine operator, to the Board of Health.

“Now it’s in the Board of Health’s court to move forward,” he said. “The Board of Health will work with the turbine operator to develop and put in place actions that will eliminate any future exceedences of our noise standard.”

Fine said there are other instances of turbines violating the noise standard and that DEP has shared mitigation options with the Kingston board. He said DEP will also help the board and the turbine operator understand the conditions in place when the standard was exceeded to properly mitigate and prevent recurrences.

Sean and Doreen Reilly, whose family has been among the many households impacted by turbine operations in Kingston, wrote to the town:

As you are well aware we have been requesting and at times begging that you, our town, officials, help us by investigating, and acting, on the Nuisance conditions we have been exposed to by way of both excessive and invasive noise as well as the very disorienting shadow flicker impacts that have enveloped our home, property and neighborhood as a result of the Independence turbine operations.
The next Kingtson Board of Health meeting on July 21, 2014 may begin to address the Reilly’s concerns, but given the DEP’s track record, they may have to wait for a court order to have quiet at night.

AWEA P.R. Aside, Wind Turbine Syndrome Persists

June 17, 2014
Freelance reporter Alex Halperin brings the issues of infrasound and Wind Turbine Syndrome (WTS) to the fore in his New Republic piece  “Big Wind Is Better Than Big Oil, But Just as Bad at P.R.” (6/15/14). He describes the experience of Nancy Shea in Florida MA. She abandoned her quiet mountain retreat once the turbines of the Hoosac Project came online. Although pro-wind, she soon learned the effect the turbines would have on her:

…just days after the 19-turbine project went online Shea sensed something wrong. She “felt kind of queasy,” one day in the kitchen. Later she woke up feeling like she had bed spins. …“It’s a hard to describe sensation, you just want to crawl out of your skin,” Shea says.

While the wind industry dismisses complaints about the effects of the low frequency infrasound, researchers and medical doctors give credence to turbine-sufferers’ complaints.
Dr. Steven Rauch, an otologist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a professor at Harvard Medical School, believes WTS is real.“…The patients deserve the benefit of the doubt,” Rauch says. “It’s clear from the documents that come out of the industry that they’re trying very hard to suppress the notion of WTS and they’ve done it in a way that [involves] a lot of blaming the victim.”

Halperin thinks it’s a mistake for the wind industry to ignore the issue.

In these cases, industry’s primary goal isn’t to be right on the merits, though that would be nice, but to continue operating. As long as it’s planting turbines, the wind industry is winning. But as long as it’s simply dismissing WTS, the industry is putting itself at risk of losing its sympathetic, clean image.

The best advice might come from the Salt and Lichtenhan article. Big Wind, it argues, should “acknowledge the problem and work to eliminate it.”

Follow Alex Halperin on Twitter @alexhalperin.

Peru Restricts Wind to Backyard Scale

June 9, 2014

Peru’s town meeting on June 7th approved bylaw changes that limit the size, scale and location of wind turbines. Instead of the five industrial scale turbines Lightship Energy  proposed for the ridge above Garnet Lake, voters limited wind conversion mainly to on-site use. The wind energy bylaw amendment passed by the needed two-thirds, 105-52. Writing for the Berkshire Eagle in advance of the meeting, Phil Demers reported (6/6/14):

Members of Peru Concerned Citizens propose changing the town’s wind energy bylaw to state, “wind energy conversion systems shall be primarily for on-site distribution use: Up to 50 percent of the energy generated may be sold or used off-site.”

The measure would effectively bar any large-scale wind developer from pursuing a project in the town, while allowing residents freedom to pursue small conversion systems at their homes.

It  was a contentious meeting as Demers saw it, reporting in “Peru Town Meeting bars development of industrial wind turbines” (6/9/14). Among financial arguments for and against the project,  Scott Seely pointed out that “All this large-scale wind is possible because of public subsidy, out of our pockets.”

Lightship withdrew its permit application without prejudice on May 19, 2014. The posting appears on the right.Peru's official posting: Lightship application withdrawn

Town elections are held on June 14 2014, with Concerned Citizens of Peru running eight candidates for town office. According to the Berkshire Eagle, “A slate of candidates for town office are running on a “change” ticket in the wake of accusations of government secrecy and three Open Meeting Law violations against the Select Board.”

Among the contenders are Bonnie DiTomasso and Kevin Cahill, seeking seats on the Select Board. Other candidates are Joseph Kaminiski for moderator, Kimberly Wetherell and John DiTomasso for Finance Committee, Candice Calahan for Town Clerk, and Scott Seely for Planning Board.

 “There has to be open communication in Peru,” (Bonnie) DiTomasso said. “It’s all about accessibility to Town Hall. I would encourage everybody to participate.”

Moratorium in Kingston; Limits in Kingston & Shelburne

April 16, 2014

The Kingston moratorium creates a two-year time-out from wind turbine siting while study of noise issues continues. When siting resumes, developers will have to meet more stringent siting guidelines to protect residents from strobing light.  Kathryn Gallerani reported for Wicked Local Middleborough  in “KINGSTON TOWN MEETING: Future wind turbines will have to prove flicker won’t impact neighbors:”

Any developer hoping to install utility-size wind turbines in Kingston will have to wait until after April 15, 2016.

And, with any proposal, the developer will have to prove that the shadow flicker from that turbine won’t affect neighboring households.

Town Meeting voters quickly approved a moratorium on industrial wind turbines Tuesday night but debated implementing a regulation on flicker that could be prohibitive for new wind turbine projects. The final vote was 101-43; the measure passed by the needed two-thirds majority.

A later story by Robert Knox appeared in the Boston Globe South edition as “Wind Turbine Rules Changed” (4/27/14).

Shelburne’s expiring two-year moratorium  for “on-premises” turbines will result in a vote on May 7, 2014 on a proposed zoning bylaw. Shelburne had already banned commercial projects. In her article for the Greenfield Recorder, “Shelburne to revisit bylaw for wind turbines,” Diane Broncaccio writes:

It’s been two years since about 300 residents filled Memorial Hall Auditorium to deliberate windmill zoning at a time when the town was facing a proposal for a large-scale wind farm. Back then, voters banned commercial-scale wind farms from town by a 195-57 vote and voted 229-46 in favor of a moratorium on “on-premises” wind turbines for generating power for farms, homes and businesses.

Now the town Planning Board has drafted a bylaw that will be presented at annual town meeting at 7 p.m. on May 7, for “on premises” wind turbines. The new bylaw provides standards for placement, design, construction, monitoring and removal of wind energy systems. If approved, it would replace the two-year moratorium on smaller wind turbines.

Shelburne’s draft bylaw restricts turbine height, distance from property lines and roads, noise levels, and strobing. It also allows the town to take action when a turbine is considered “abandoned.”


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