Towns Move to Prevent Noise Problems with Wind Turbines
Will towns be able to make regulations for wind turbine noise more stringent than the state standard? The 10 decibel over ambient (background) noise regulation is the current standard applied by the Mass Department of Environmental Protection. It is their role to protect people from air pollution, including noise. (For more about qualities of turbine noise, click on this chart.)
But a regulation being considered by Bourne, Falmouth, Scituate and Kingston would lower that level to six decibels for wind turbines. A draft regulation being considered by three of those towns would also include regulations to account for the “whooshing” nature of turbine sound, as well as regulations for infrasound, or sound that is inaudible to humans.
Ariel Wittenberg, writing in South Coast Today, notes Fairhaven’s interest in adopting a stricter noise ordinance. In Fairhaven health board member hopes for stricter turbine regulations, Wittenberg quotes health board member Barbara Acksen’s comments.
Acksen said that [DEP] approach is inadequate, adding that “even if the turbines don’t violate state law, people are still being affected.”
“Many people in different communities have found that this 10 decibel level is not appropriate to account for turbine noise,” she said.
The draft regulation being considered by Falmouth, Scituate and Kingston was written by Westboro-based attorney Christopher Senie, who often represents community groups in zoning disputes.
Scituate had an earlier regulation which limited noise levels to 3 and 5 dB(A), but changed it to the state standard. This was upon the recommendation of two current MassCEC employees, Andrew Brydges and Peter McPhee, who at that time were working as consultants for KEMA (an international energy consulting firm, now part of DNV KEMA). The change was encouraged in order for the town to successfully site a wind turbine.
|KEMA - Town of Scituate Community Wind Project Feasibility Study||April 2008 Tech Environmental Acoustic Study of Scituate|
|“The noise level allowances during turbine operation are 3 dB above ambient noise when ambient noise is 45 dB or below, and 5 dB above ambient noise when ambient noise is 45 dB or above. These noise level requirements are, in KEMA’s opinion, relatively strict and may lead to significant hindrances in the development of a wind turbine if they are not modified or waived.” (p.62)
“Considering changes to the Town’s existing wind energy conversion system bylaw in the areas of noise, using the Massachusetts Model Wind Bylaw as a reference. Specifically, the Town should consider setting allowable noise increases to 10 dB above ambient noise levels as measured at the nearest property line, consistent with DEP noise regulations” (p. 58).
|“The town of Scituate has recently amended their By-Law, Section 740.6 Noise Level Standards. It is now identical to the MADEP regulations…”(p.5)
“Project sounds should not be audible indoors anywhere.”* (p.1)
*TV Interview with resident who is located 3,500 feet away from the turbines: “You can still hear the noise inside your home with the windows closed,” Scituate residents say wind turbine is too loud.