Wind proponents and opponents alike packed into Wednesday’s Huron County Planning Commission meeting to hear a presentation by a noise control engineer who conducted a study to counter that which originally was submitted to the board by Noble Environmental Power, LLC.
“Noble did a study for you back in 2005 in which they went through much of what is normally done for site planning, unfortunately what they did was very biased in their favor,” said Richard James. He is an acoustics expert who has more than 35 years of experience in Community Noise and a former member of the American National Standards (ANSI) Noise S12 Working group that oversees ANSI Standards for Community Noise. “I can’t say that it was biased intentionally, but the end result of what they did was biased.”
James told planning commissioners he studied three sites in the Ubly area to assess land use compatibility and community reaction to the Noble Thumb Windpark Project.
He said his study found the sound level tests conducted on behalf of Noble and presented in its report are significantly higher than those measured during his study.
James said these higher values were used by Noble to support the conclusion that turbine noise is compatible with the rural community.
He said his study raised questions about Noble’s conclusion that the turbine noise would not create noise problems for residents after installation.
James said the study also found the additional noise from the turbines – the fact that the turbines are not a natural element of rural soundscapes – and that the community has little experience with non-rural noise sources, will result in a high likelihood of vigorous community action and litigation by the affected residents after turbines are installed.
James’ study was commissioned by the Residents for Sound Economics and Planning (RSEP), of Ubly, which previously asked Huron County Planning Commission members to reconsider the county’s Wind Turbine Overlay Zoning Ordinance.
David Hessler, who also is an acoustical engineer, attended the meeting to speak on behalf of Noble.
“All the background measurements that (James) took were taken during very low speeds, in particular at night … that’s below the operating point of the turbines – there is no noise from the project when conditions are calm like that, “ said Hessler, who was not part of Noble’s original wind study.
Noble Development Manager Jeanette Hagen said Noble is standing by its original study.
“Yes, we do stand by our original noise study because we do believe it is correct and that the anti-wind noise study is somewhat flawed,” she said.
Travis Narum, a senior strategist for energy distribution at DTE Energy, was present at the meeting to urge the planning commission to use good planning and zoning.
“Noise is subjective – you can’t zone to every person or you’d build nothing, nowhere,” he said.
Huron County Commissioner Clark Elftman, who also was present at the meeting, agreed.
“Sometimes you have to live with something in order to make improvements,” he said. “The world is changing, and we have to change with it.”
The planning commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 9.
By Kate Finneren-Hessling
The Huron Daily Tribune
5 April 2007
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