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Wind Energy Facilities Local Law, Town of Litchfield, New York  

Author:  | Impacts, New York, Ordinances

The Town Board of the Town of Litchfield adopts this Wind Energy Facilities Local Law to promote the effective and efficient use of the town’s wind energy resource through wind energy conversion systems (WECS), without harming public health and safety, and to avoid jeopardizing the welfare of the residents.

The Town Board of the Town of Litchfield finds and declares that:

1. While wind energy is a renewable energy resource, there are significant impacts including noise, shadow flicker, aesthetic and physical hazards such that the potential benefits must be balanced against potential impacts.

2. The generation of electricity from properly sited small wind turbines can be a mechanism for reducing on-site electric costs, with a minimum of environmental impacts.

3. Regulation of the siting and installation of wind energy facilities is necessary for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of neighboring property owners and the general public.

4. Utility-scale wind energy facilities represent significant potential aesthetic impacts and because of their large size, noise, lighting, and shadow flicker effects.

5. One of the key aspects of the Town of Litchfield, and one that sets it apart from many communities in the state, are the unique viewsheds created by the Town of Litchfield’s location along the highlands between the Mohawk and Sauquoit valleys. In the Town of Litchfield the viewshed is a significant part of the residential property value of many communities within the Town. There are numerous areas in the Town of Litchfield which would be significantly impaired if the viewshed included utility-scale wind energy facilities.

6. The Town of Litchfield has a long history including many homes and structures eligible for listing on the State or National Historic Register located within the town or in the immediate vicinity, several of which predate the founding of the Town of Litchfield in 1796. The town highly values its history and has published a 376 page book entitled Litchfield Through the Years which has undergone four printings and two revisions since 1976. Full appreciation of these resources requires that the setting remain the rural landscape in which they were built. Construction of utility-scale wind energy facilities in the town would have a significant adverse impact on such settings.

7. The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has found that every wind farm in the State it has reviewed has a negative impact on the historical resources of the host community.

8. SHPO has particularly noted the impact on historic cemeteries, of which there are several in the area. These resources would be negatively impacted by the noise, shadow flicker, and visual imposition of utility-scale wind energy facilities in the town.

9. Wind energy facilities installed and operating in the Towns of Fairfield and Norway are visible from several areas of the Town of Litchfield during the day and display flashing red lights at night. The view of these utility-scale wind energy facilities impairs the enjoyment of the north facing viewsheds in those areas even though the turbines are over 15 miles away. Further impairment of the viewshed of the town may limit residential growth within the town. Should multiple utility scale wind energy facilities be
installed in the Town of Litchfield, they would likely impair viewsheds well beyond the borders of the town.

10. The high elevation of the Town of Litchfield and the lack of street lights results in clear, dark night skies as compared to the lower elevation metropolitan areas. The relatively dark skies offer opportunities for astronomy, astrophotography and casual stargazing. The presence of flashing lights, strobe lights or rotating blades from utility-scale wind energy facilities will impair the enjoyment of this resource. …

16. Numerous residents of the Town of Fairfield have complained about high sound levels from operation of large industrial wind energy facilities installed near homes. These complaints have occurred despite the fact that pre-construction analytical predictions concluded that sound levels would be within acceptable limits. This may be due to factors such as atmospheric conditions, temperature inversions, wind layers, geography and low frequency noise which travels further with greater intensity than higher frequency noise. In addition, at night when air stabilizes near ground level, elevated wind turbine noise can travel further than expected and can be 5-15 dB(A) louder than predicted with conventional models. (See Kamperman and James 2008; Acoustic Ecology Institute Special Report: Wind Farm Noise, Science and Policy 2011). This leads to the conclusion that pre-construction analytical predictions of sound must comply with appropriate standards and be independently verified. Minimum setbacks from residences are necessary to mitigate noise impacts due to the uncertainty of these models.

17. While mechanical sounds of wind turbines have been reduced by modern designs, aerodynamic sounds by air turbulence around the turbine blades have increased with increasing turbine size.

18. The closer people live to wind energy facilities the more likely they will experience noise annoyance or develop adverse health effects from noise. However, it is common for those located very close to a wind energy facility or facilities to hear less noise than those farther away, due to the formation of a “shadow zone” upwind of the turbine. This has been demonstrated by the on-going problems reported by residents in the Town of Fairfield in which industrial wind energy facilities have become operational recently. This has also been demonstrated by continuing reports of problems related to noise at other recent wind energy projects throughout the United States. Further, the degree of difficulties resulting from the sound of wind energy facilities seems clearly related to the distance from the turbines, though the literature has studied a variety of turbine sizes in a variety of locations. A setback of 2,460 feet from residences would eliminate most noise complaints. Research conducted by Bajdek (2007) showed that at approximately 0.8 km (1⁄2 mile) from wind turbines, 44% of the population would be highly annoyed by wind turbine noise. At a distance of approximately 1.62 km (1 mile) from wind turbines, the percent of highly annoyed people is expected to drop to 4%. Kamperman and James reviewed several studies to determine the impact of wind turbine noise on nearby residents. Their review showed that some residents living as far as two miles from wind turbines complained of sleep disturbance from turbine noise and many residents living 1,000 feet from wind turbines experienced major sleep disruption and other health problems from nighttime turbine noise. Van den Berg (2006) studied a wind farm in northwestern Germany and discovered that residents living 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the wind turbines reacted strongly to wind turbine noise and residents up to 1,900 meters (1.18 miles) from the wind turbines expressed annoyance. A survey conducted by Pedersen and Waye (2008) found that less than 10% of the respondents experienced sleep disturbance at distances of 1,984 feet to 3,325 feet and found that the sound from wind turbines was of greater concern in rural environments because of the lower ambient noise. The Town of Litchfield notes with approval that wind project developer NorthWind and Power LLC (November 23, 2009) has stated in its marketing literature that the “Minimum Distance from residences owned by non-participating landowners: 2,500 ft”.

19. Several studies recommend wind turbines be located between 1⁄2 mile to over 1 mile from residences. To avoid adverse noise impacts, the Western Australia Planning Commission Bulletin recommends that wind energy systems include sufficient buffers or setbacks to residences of 1 km (0.62 mile). The National Wind Collaborating Committee states that an appropriate setback distance may be up to 1⁄2 mile. The National Research Council states that noise produced by wind turbines generally is not a major concern for humans beyond one mile or so. The Wisconsin Towns of Woodville, Clay Banks, Magnolia, Wilton and Ridgeville recently adopted large wind turbine ordinances with setbacks of 1⁄2 mile from residences. The French National Academy of Medicine and the UK Noise Association suggest a 1.5 km (approximately 1 mile) distance between large wind turbines and residences. See Gueniot (2006), Dr. Amanda Harry (2007), Dr. Nina Pierpont (2006), and Frey and Hadden (2007) recommend a setback greater than 1 mile.
20. It is noted that the Wind Turbine Handbook (Burton, 2001, January 2008 Printing) notes that a ten rotor diameter setback is likely necessary to protect from the impact of noise, shadow flicker and visual domination. The Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland (2009), establishes a best practice guideline of a separation distance between a WECS and occupied property of 10 times the rotor diameter.

21. It is noted that The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation document Assessing and Mitigating Noise Impacts (2001) teaches that sound levels that are 0-5dB above ambient are “unnoticed to tolerable” whereas noise increases over 5dB are considered “intrusive”. This document further states: “Appropriate receptor locations may be either at the property line of the parcel on which the facility is located or at the location of use or inhabitance on adjacent property”. And “The most conservative approach uses the property line”.

22. Background sound levels in rural residential areas in New York are commonly in the range of 20 dBA to 30 dBA at night. See Kamperman and James (2008), pg. 2

23. A C-weighted sound determination dB(C) is needed to minimize adverse health effects from low frequency noise. A dB(C) requirement will likely result in setbacks between large wind turbines and nearby residences of 1 km, (0.62 miles) or greater for 1.5 to 3 MW wind turbines if wind turbines are located in rural areas where L90A background levels are close to 30 dB(A). (See Kamperman & James; WHO 1999; Bajdek Noise-Con 2007; Pedersen and Waye 2008). …

37. Low frequency vibrations or infrasound may cause health impacts even if inaudible. Recent field testing in Falmouth, MA indicated that in a home located 1,300 feet from one turbine and 1,700 feet from another, excessive infrasound was present inside the home while not measurable outside the home (See Ambrose and Rand (2011)). Previous studies of infrasound from wind turbines have shown levels to be low in outdoor testing, while others have effectively measured infrasound outdoors near turbines when the atmosphere is stable, for example at night (See van den Berg (2006)). In the Ambrose and Rand study, testing indicated that infrasound was magnified (10dB gain) by a whole-house cavity response and was likened to “living in a drum”. The investigators were surprised to experience the same adverse health symptoms described by residents of the house and those near other large industrial wind turbine sites. The onset of adverse health effects was swift, within twenty minutes, and persisted for some time after leaving the study area. Ambrose and Rand correlated their symptoms to turbine operation and infrasound measurements and found that infrasound pulsations at levels sufficient to stimulate the ear’s outer hair cells (OHC) and thus cause vestibular dysfunction (see Dr. Salt, 2011) were present when the turbines were operating. Dysfunctions in the vestibular system can cause disequilibrium, nausea, vertigo, anxiety, and panic attacks, which have been reported near a number of industrial wind turbine facilities. Similar adverse health symptoms have been associated with noise complaints such as “sick building syndrome”, correlated by field study to low-frequency pulsations emanating from ventilation systems. (See Burt, (1996); Shwartz (2008)) That is, adverse health effects from low frequency noise exposure in buildings have been studied and confirmed by the acoustics
profession. Ambrose and Rand conclude that their study underscores the need for more effective and precautionary setback distances for industrial wind turbines. …

DEFINITIONS

LARGE WIND ENERGY CONVERSION SYSTEM or Large WECS – A Wind Energy Conversion System larger than 50kW. A Wind Energy Facility consisting of a wind turbine, a Tower, and associated control or conversion electronics, which has a Name Plate Rating of more than 50 kW (Fifty Thousand Watts).

PERMITS REQUIRED

A. No Large WECS shall be constructed, reconstructed, modified, or operated anywhere in the Town of Litchfield.

B. No Small WECS or Wind Energy Facility comprising a Small WECS shall be constructed, reconstructed, modified, or operated in the Town of Litchfield except pursuant to and in compliance with a Wind Energy Permit issued pursuant to this Local Law.

C. No Wind Measurement Tower shall be constructed, reconstructed, modified, or operated in the Town of Litchfield except in connection with an application for a Small WECS, and pursuant to and in compliance with a Wind Measurement Tower Permit issued pursuant to this Local Law. …

SOUND and SETBACKS

A Small WECS shall comply with the following standards:

1. Setback requirements. A Small WECS shall not be located closer to a Property Line than one and a half times the Turbine Height of the WECS or ten times the Rotor Diameter, whichever is greater.

2. Noise. Except during short-term events including utility outages and severe wind storms, a Small WECS shall be designed, installed, and operated so that the Sound Pressure Level (Leq) generated by a Small WECS shall not exceed 45 dBA in daytime hours nor 35 dBA at night as measured at the nearest off-Site Residence existing at the time of approval (including structure under construction at said time), nor more than 6 dBA greater than either the nighttime or daytime pre-application Background Sound level measured in leaf-off conditions for a period of no less than 24 hours. Measurement of Background Sound may also be performed with the turbine turned off and with its blades trimmed to minimize Noise from aerodynamic effects.

ARTICLE IV. LARGE WECS

INTENT & PURPOSE

It is the intent of the Town of Litchfield to prohibit the construction, reconstruction, modification or operation of Large WECS as defined in this Wind Energy Facilities Local Law. The purpose of this Article is to provide substantive standards for Large WECS in the event an application is made to the Public Service Commission under Article X of the Public Service Law for the construction and operation of Large WECS in the Town of Litchfield.

STANDARDS FOR WIND ENERGY FACILITIES

The following substantive standards shall apply to all Large WECS in the Town of Litchfield in the event an application to construct and operate Large WECS in the Town of Litchfield is made to the New York Public Service Commission pursuant to Article 10 of the Public Service Law. …

SOUND LEVELS

A. The equivalent level (LEQ) generated by a WECS shall not exceed the limits listed in Table 1 when measured at the nearest off-Site Residence or Buildable Lot. If the A-weighted Background Sound pressure level, without the WECS, is within 5 dB of some or all of the limits in Table 1 or exceeds some or all of the limits in Table 1, then the A-weighted criterion to be applied to the WECS application for
those affected limits shall be the A-weighted background level + 5 dB. The remaining limits that are more than 5 dB above the A-weighted background shall remain as given in Table 1.

Note: For example, during daytime, if the background is less than or equal to 40 dB, then the limit is 45 dB. However, if the background is greater than 40 dB, say 44 dB, then the applicable WECS limit is the background level plus 5 dB which calculates to 49 dB for this example.

B. In all cases, the corresponding C-weighted limit shall be the operable A-weighted limit (from Table I or based on the A-weighted background, as appropriate) plus 18 dB. The application shall include certification by an independent acoustical engineer as to the predicted A- and c-weighted WECS sound levels at potentially impacted residential Sites. The engineer, or the firm with which the engineer is associated shall be a member of the National Council of Acoustical Consultants (NCAC) with a specialty in environmental Noise, and shall be a Member, Board Certified of the Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA. The background shall be measured and predicted in accordance with clause C below.

Table I. WECS Noise limits at residential receivers

Daytime
7 AM to 7 PM

Evening
7 PM to 10 PM

Nighttime
10 PM to 7 AM

A-weighted level (dB)

45

40

35

C-weighted level (dB)

63

58

53

C. A-weighted background sound levels shall be based on measured hourly L90 levels gathered over a sufficient time to characterize each of the following three time periods, respectively. The day shall be divided into three time periods: (1) daytime, the hours from 7 AM to 7 PM, (2) evening, the hours from 7 PM to 10 PM, and (3) nighttime, the hours from 10 PM to 7 AM. If insect Noise possibly can dominate some of the hourly L90 measurements, then Ai weighted (see Schomer, Paul D. et al., “Proposed ‘Ai’ – Weighting: a weighting to remove insect Noise from A-weighted field measurements,” InterNoise 2010, Lisbon Portugal, 13-16 June 2010) shall be used in lieu of the Standard A-weighting, or measurements shall not be made when insect Noise possibly can dominate some of the hourly L90 measurements. The background shall be reported by time period, and computed as follows. The minimum hourly L90 shall be tabulated by time period and by day, and the arithmetic average of these measurements by time period over all the days of measurement shall be computed. These three averages of daily minima shall be reported as that Site’s daytime, evening, and night time A-weighted background levels, respectively.

Note: In relatively quiet areas insect Noise, especially during summer months, can easily dominate the A-weighted Ambient Sound level. This occurs partly because the primary frequencies or tones of many, if not most, insect Noises are in the range of frequencies where the A-weighting is a maximum, whereas, most mechanical and WECS Noises primarily occur at the lower frequencies where the A-weighting significantly attenuates the sound. Also, insect noises and bird songs do not mask WECS Noise at all because of the large differences in frequencies or tones between them. …

SETBACKS

Each WECS shall be located with the following minimum setbacks, as measured from the center of the WECS:

i. Ten (10) Rotor Diameters from the property line of off-Site Residences or Buildable Lots.

ii. Four (4) Turbine Heights from the nearest on-Site Residence.

iii. 100 feet or the rotor radius, whichever is more from state-identified wetlands, except where permits for other setbacks have been received from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, or federal wetland permits issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

iv. 1.5 times the sum of the hub height plus Rotor Diameter from a public highway.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

GE Energy, “The Effects of Integrating Wind Power On Transmission System Planning, Reliability, and Operations”, March 4, 2005

George Kamperman and Richard R. James, Simple guidelines for siting wind turbines to prevent health risks, The Institute of Noise Control Engineering of the USA, 117 Proceedings of NOISECON 2008 1122-1128, Dearborn, Michigan

World Health Organization, GUIDELINES FOR COMMUNITY NOISE (1999)

Jim Cummings, AEI Special Report: Wind Farm Noise 2011: Science and Policy overview, Acoustic Ecology Institute (Santa Fe, NM) 2011

Christopher J. Bajdek, Communicating the Noise Effects of Wind Farms to Stakeholders, Proceedings of NOISE-CON 2007 (Reno, Nevada)

Frits van den Berg, The sounds of high winds: the effect of atmospheric stability on wind turbine sound and microphone noise, Diss., Univ. Groningen 2006

Eja Pedersen and Kerstin Persson Waye, Wind turbines – low level noise sources interfering with restoration?, 3(1) ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS (2008)

National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) Siting Subcommittee, PERMITTING OF WIND ENERGY FACILITIES: A HANDBOOK (Washington, DC, NWCC, 1998)

National Research Council, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF WIND-ENERGY PROJECTS (National Academies Press, 2007)

Dr. Chantal Gueniot, Wind turbines: The Academy cautious, PANORAMA DU MÉDECIN, March 20, 2006, reporting on National Academy of Medicine in France, LE RETENTISSEMENT DU FONCTIONNEMENT DES ÉOLIENNES SUR LA SANTÉ DE L’HOMME (“Repercussions of wind turbine operations on human health”)

UK Noise Association, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: AN INVESTIGATION INTO WIND FARMS AND NOISE (July 2006)

Harry, Amanda, M.D., Wind Turbines, Noise and Health, February 2007 Nina Pierpont, M.D., Ph.D., Health Effects of Wind Turbine Noise, March 2, 2006

Nina Pierpont, M.D., Ph.D., Wind Turbine Syndrome: Noise, Shadow Flicker, and Health, August 1, 2006

Barbara J. Frey and Peter J. Hadden, Noise Radiation from Wind turbines Installed Near Homes: Effects on Health, February 2007

T. Burton, D. Sharpe, N. Jenkins and E. Bossanyi, WIND ENERGY HANDBOOK (2001), West Sussex, England, John Wiley and Sons.

Smedley, A. Webb, A. Wilkins, Potential of wind turbines to elicit seizures under various meteorological conditions, Epilepsia, Vol. 51, Issue 7, pp. 1146-1151, July 2010

S. Ambrose and R. Rand, The Bruce McPherson Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise Study – Adverse Health Effects Produced By Large Industrial Wind Turbines Confirmed, December 14, 2011

Burt, T., Sick Building Syndrome: Acoustical Aspects, Indoor and Built Environment January 1996 vol. 5 no. 1, pp. 44-59.
Shwartz, S., Linking Noise and Vibration to Sick Building Syndrome in Office Buildings, EM Magazine, awma.org, March 2008

Salt, A., “Responses of the Inner Ear to Infrasound” – presentation to the Wind Turbine Noise Conference, Rome, April 11-14, 2011.

Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland, Best Practice Guidance to Planning Policy Statement 18 ‘Renewable Energy’, August 2009, p. 24

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Assessing and Mitigating Noise Impacts, 2001

Cattin, et al., “Wind turbine ice throw studies in the Swiss Alps”, European Wind Energy Conference Milan, May 2007

Graham Harding, Pamela Harding and Arnold Wilkins, Wind turbines, flicker, and photosensitive epilepsy: Characterizing the flashing that may precipitate seizures and optimizing guidelines to prevent them, 49(6) EPILEPSIA (2008) 1095-1098.

NREL publication “New York 50 Meter Wind Power”, 14-May-2009 3.1.1

Schomer, Paul D. et al., “Proposed ‘Ai’ –Weighting: a weighting to remove insect Noise from A-weighted field measurements,” InterNoise 2010, Lisbon Portugal, 13-16 June 2010

Kaliski, Kenneth and Duncan, Eddie, “Propagation Modeling Parameters for Wind Power Projects”, Sound & Vibration, pp. 12-15, December 2008

Larwood, Scott and Van Dam, C.P. (California Wind Energy Collaborative), 2006 Permitting Setback Requirements for Wind Turbines in California. California Energy Commission, PIER Renewable Technologies. CEC-500-2005-184

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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