Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Council seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to settling on a minimum setback distance for wind turbines, and has deferred the matter until mid November.
At the Oct. 16 meeting, councillors Barry Millian and Carl Sloetjes presented a verbal report of the noise expert draft findings at the MOE focus group session in Toronto Oct. 15. The pair attended the meeting on behalf of the Township of ACW.
“I’ll get right to the bottom line here – which was the last chapter of the meeting, and that was, where do we go from here?” said Coun. Millian. “My bottom line is that I need to be put in a comfort zone before I move on this issue, and walking out of that meeting, that didn’t happen.”
The nearly five hour session focused on the draft findings of Dr. Ramani Ramakrishnan, a professor at Ryerson University in Toronto whose areas of specialty include acoustical modeling, noise control, architectural acoustics and aero-acoustics. He was commissioned by the MOE to study and report on the findings of G.P. Van den Berg, a physicist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. Van den Berg studied and attempted to explain why modern onshore wind turbines can cause noise problems for residents at distances of a mile or more.
For his 2004 article, “Effects of the wind profile at night on wind turbine sound published in the Journal of Sound and Vibration, Van den Berg measured sound around the Rhede wind farm, an installation of 17 wind turbines, on the Dutch/ German border.
“The gentleman who spoke at the session (Dr. Ramakrishnan) studied the Van den Berg report and had some critical things to say,” said Millian. “He did not agree with the way Van den Berg completed some of his studies. He said that some conclusions reached were missing the documentation on how he arrived there. He didn’t say [Van den Berg] was right or wrong– he just said that the documentation explaining some results was missing.”
Among his findings, Van den Berg discovered that the methods used by wind turbine developers to predict noise are seriously flawed because of their assumption that wind speeds measured at the height of 10 metres are representative of wind speed at the greater heights of modern turbines (often 100 metres above). His measurements show that wind speeds at night can be 2.6 times higher than expected.
Van den Berg concluded, “The number and severity of noise complaints near the wind park are at least in part explained by the two main findings of this study; actual sound levels are considerable higher than predicted, and wind turbines can produce sound with an impulsive character.”
“There was a lot of people who were upset by how the Van den Berg report was done… He needs a chance to defend himself,” said Coun. Sloetjes. “Our promise to the community was to bring it this far. The MOE is standing behind 40 decibels. How long do we wait? In my opinion, at some point we need to stand back and take the professional findings and go with them.”
ACW Council initiated the amendment in September of 2006. According the MOE, a minimum distance between a residence and a wind turbine of 400 metres is appropriate, with additional space depending on noise level readings.
Council was instructed by the MOE to send in any follow-up questions or concerns regarding the session by Oct. 22. Council understood that the MOE would then prepare a final report about the Oct. 15 session and deliver it by mid November.
Council moved to defer the matter until hearing back from the MOE in Nov. and has strongly encouraged that the Ministry send a copy of Dr. Ramakrisnan’s draft findings to Van den Berg for response.
“We have an obligation to the community, to EPCOR and whoever else wants to put up turbines,” said Reeve Ben Van Diepenbeek. “We have an obligation to move on this. We have to make a decision.”
“We can make our comments and defer until November, but at that point we have to move,” added Coun. Sloetjes. “The MOE is moving with the status quo. We’re only setting a minimum distance here, and then sound findings determine the final set back. They are saying that 40 decibels is appropriate for wind turbines. I’m prepared to carry on. We all know that 1000 metres away is the best scenario, but we have to think, do we want these in our community? If so, what can we live with?”
“I’m not prepared to move on this until the MOE comes back to us with a response. I’ve made it clear that research is still required. The thing I’m prepared to do is wait [until mid-November]. Why wouldn’t we wait?” stated Coun. Millian. “I made a promise, and that promise was that I will not move until they reviewed the [Van den Berg] report. I did not say that I would move regardless of the results.”
By Dominique Milburn
24 October 2007
[This story updates ‘Final Decision on turbine setbacks may soon be made, 24 October 2007]
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