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.
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.
…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.
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’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.”
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.”
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.”
Two recent essays highlight aspects of wind turbine impacts, addressing effects that go beyond audible noise. Both are written by distinguished experts who have the research background needed to comment authoritatively about infrasound.
In How does wind turbine noise affect people? researchers Alec Salt and Jeffrey Lichtenhan point out the physiological mechanisms their studies have uncovered. These contribute to the growing body of evidence that noise from wind turbines, even that below the audible threshold, can impact humans who live near turbines. Acoustics Today published this invited paper in the Winter 2014 issue in March 2014. This magazine of the Acoustical Society of America exists to present technical issues in a form accessible to a general audience. In this article Salt and Lichtenhan explain the recent progress in understanding the ear and its responses to infrasound and low frequency noise. They answer those who dismiss the effect of infrasound on the ear and on other body systems:
The current highly-polarized situation has arisen because our understanding of the consequences of long-term infrasound stimulation remains at a very primitive level. Based on well-established principles of the physiology of the ear and how it responds to very low frequency sounds, there is ample justification to take this problem more seriously than it has been to date.
In Wind Farms and Health, Alun Evans, a medical doctor, epidemiologist and researcher, analyzes the biology of wind turbine emissions in the context of his specialty. Drawing the inferences of disturbed sleep from recent studies, and the rapidity with which the body produces genetic anomalies in blood cells based on lack of sleep, Evans sounds the alarm. Study after study that he cites note problems and impacts that have been ignored or dismissed.
Although the associations between noise pollution and ill health can be argued against, and there are gaps in our knowledge, there is sufficient evidence to cause grave misgivings about its safety.
The MassDEP’s Wind and Noise Technical Advisory group met on 3/7/14 to review the committee’s work. Laurel Carlson, DEP Deputy Regional Director, presented her discussion document overview.
Presentation by Laurel Carlson, MassDEP, on possible changes to the MassDEP approved methods of noise testing.
Compliance Testing–DEP favors retaining 10 dBA. “Slow is out, fast (meter) is in.” Attended data collection is still in; have not settled on “when” or “where” of testing.
Alternatives that have been raised; pre-construction permitting & additional recommendations are reviewed
Laurel Carlson continues with additional recommendations, noting attended sampling is logistically challenged. Comments by Stephen Ambrose, Todd Drummey (about Falmouth), and Michael Bahtiarian. DEP’s Martin Suuberg responds.
Issues with Pre-construction background noise levels
Carlson and Suuberg both repeated the DEP’s interest in getting comments on the findings to date and especially on the unresolved concerns.
According to Stacie Smith of the Consensus Building Institute (CBI), the public can send comments through the end of March 2014 to WNTAG via email@example.com. CBI will compile and post the comments all on the WNTAG website, and notify the group that they are there.