This bill proposes to require standard setbacks, noise limits, and other requirements for wind energy plants that exceed 0.49 megawatts, to allow nearby property owners to waive these requirements, and to require that the Act 250 district commissions and appropriate municipal panels be the permit review authorities for wind energy plants not owned by Vermont electric utilities.
Sec. 1. 30 V.S.A. § 8008 is added to read:
§ 8008. WIND TOWER SITING REQUIREMENTS; ENFORCEMENT
(a) Applicability. This section applies to a plant that generates electricity using wind energy as a fuel source and has a plant capacity in excess of 0.49 megawatts (MW). The requirements of this section shall apply to any proceeding for approval of such a plant under chapter 151 of Title 10, chapter 117 of Title 24, or section 248 of this title, in addition to all other applicable criteria.
(b) Definitions. As used in this section:
(1) “dBA” means a decibel measure of overall sound level under American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Sl.4 that is designed to reflect the response of the human ear. Lower frequency sounds are given less weight than those in the mid-range of human perception. The resulting measure is said to be A-weighted, and the units are dBA.
(2) “dBC” means a decibel measure of overall sound level under ANSI S1.4 that is similar to dBA but does not de-emphasize low frequencies to the extent that dBA does. The resulting measure is said to be C-weighted, and the units are dBC.
(3) “Height” means the total distance measured from the grade of a property as it exists prior to the construction of a wind turbine or related facility at the base to the highest point of a wind turbine or related facility. In the case of a wind turbine, this includes the length of the blade at its highest possible point.
(4) “Kamperman-James Guidelines” means the proposed wind turbine siting sound limits contained on page 10 of George W. Kamperman, INCE, Bd. Cert. Emeritus, and Richard R. James, INCE, “Simple guidelines for siting wind turbines to prevent health risks” (July 27, 2008) (Rev 1.0).
(5) “L90” means background sound, defined over a continuous ten-minute period to be the average sound level during the quietest one continuous minute of the ten minutes. The term refers to sound that is normally present at least 90 percent of the time, and excludes any sound generated by a plant subject to this section. L90 may be measured relative to A-weighting or C-weighting, in which case it is denoted LA90 or LC90.
(6) “Leq” means frequency-weighted equivalent sound level. The term is defined to be the steady sound level that contains the same amount of acoustical energy as the corresponding time-varying sound. Leq may be measured relative to A-weighting or C-weighting, in which case it is denoted LAeq or LCeq.
(7) “Occupied building” means any structure that is or is likely to be occupied by persons or animals and includes dwellings, commercial buildings, other business structures, hospitals, places of worship, schools, stables, and barns. This term shall include a structure on which construction has commenced at the time a complete application for a plant subject to this section is filed, if the structure otherwise meets the provisions of this subdivision (8).
(8) “Rotor” means an element of a wind turbine that acts as a multibladed airfoil assembly extracting, through rotation, kinetic energy directly from the wind.
(9) “Shadow flicker” means alternating changes in light intensity caused by the moving blade of a wind turbine casting shadows on the ground and stationary objects, such as a window at a dwelling.
(10) “Wind turbine” means a mechanical device that captures the energy of the wind and converts it into electricity. The primary components of a wind turbine are the rotor or other component that extracts energy from the wind, the electrical generator, and the tower. This term does not include wiring to connect the wind turbine to the grid.
(c) Setbacks. At a minimum, a wind turbine shall be set back horizontally:
(1) One and one-quarter miles from an occupied building, if the elevation change between the wind turbine and the occupied building is equal to or less than 500 feet.
(2) Two miles from an occupied building, if the elevation change between the wind turbine and the occupied building exceeds 500 feet.
(3) One-half mile from the closest boundary of the parcel on which the wind turbine will be located.
(4) One-third of a mile from any public highway or right-of-way and from any above-ground utility line or facility. However, this subdivision shall not apply to an electric line that directly connects a wind turbine to a substation or other utility facility.
(d) Sound limits. At a minimum, a plant subject to this section shall comply with each of the following:
(1) Audible sound limit. No plant shall be located so as to generate postconstruction sound levels that exceed preconstruction background sound levels by more then 5 dBA.
(2) Low frequency sound limit. The LCeq and LC90 sound levels from a wind turbine at the receiving property shall not exceed the lower of either:
(A) An LCeq-LA90 greater than 20 dB outside any occupied building; or
(B) A sound level of 50 dBC (LC90) from a wind turbine, without other ambient sounds, for a parcel the closest boundary of which is located one mile or more from a state highway or Class 1 or 2 town highway, or of 55 dBC (LC90) for a parcel with a boundary closer than one mile to such a highway.
(3) General sound limit. Sound from a plant subject to this section shall not exceed 35 dBA within 30 meters of any occupied building.
(4) Demonstrating compliance with sound limits. Use of the Kamperman-James Guidelines shall be required in demonstrating compliance with the sound limits of this subsection.
(e) Other requirements.
(1) A plant subject to this section shall comply with the interconnection requirements of the Independent System Operator of New England, Inc. or the interconnection rules of the board, as applicable.
(2) The applicant shall perform and submit with the application an analysis of shadow flicker effect for each wind turbine and proposed measures to mitigate or eliminate such effect.
(3) Roads and power lines associated with the plant shall be the minimum feasible length as determined by the permitting authority. Rights-of-way for such roads and lines shall be the minimum feasible width as determined by the permitting authority.
(4) A wind turbine shall have no lighting except those lights necessary to meet the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.
(5) The application shall include the depreciation schedule that the applicant will use for each wind turbine and other component of a plant.
(6) The application shall include a plan for replacement or removal of each wind turbine in the event of the turbine’s failure, including a failure due to natural disaster.
(7) The application shall include a decommissioning and site restoration plan containing the following information and meeting the following requirements:
(A) The plan shall provide for the removal from the project parcels and lawful disposal or disposition of all wind turbines and other structures, hazardous materials, electrical facilities, and all foundations. The plan shall provide for the removal or appropriate supervision and control of all access roads. The plan shall provide for the restoration of the project parcels to a condition as close as reasonably possible to that which existed before construction of the plant.
(B) The plan shall provide for the decommissioning of the site on the expiration or revocation of the permit or abandonment of the plant. The plant shall be deemed abandoned if its operation has ceased for 12 consecutive months.
(C) The plan shall include provision for the posting of a third party bond to assure completion of decommissioning and site restoration, in the amount of the full estimated costs of decommissioning and site restoration adjusted for inflation and in accordance with the plan as approved by the permitting authority.
(D) The plan shall include written authorization from the applicant and all owners of all project parcels for each municipality in which the plant is located, the permitting authority, or a designee of such municipality or authority to access the project parcels and implement the decommissioning and site restoration plan, in the event that the permittee fails to implement the plan. The written authorization shall be in a form approved by the permitting authority and recorded in the land records of each municipality in which the plant is located. …