PORTAGE – Some turbines in the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm are operating at noise levels above the limit spelled out in a local ordinance, a group of Portage Township residents maintains.
Resident and former township Supervisor Bruce Brunett said the noise level measured at his home near Blue Knob is at least 10 decibels higher than the 45-decibel limit spelled out in the township ordinance.
“We want to let them know we’ve got a problem there and they need to do something about it,” said Brunett, who lives 1.3 miles from the closest turbine.
An official of Gamesa Energy USA, turbine producer and farm developer, and project owner/operator Babcock & Brown said Monday they are taking corrective steps.
Acoustic monitoring by Gamesa was completed last week and the turbines making what the company termed as a “whistling” sound have been identified, said Ellen Lutz, Gamesa’s director of development for the Atlantic Region.
“We are fixing them as quickly as the weather will allow,” she said.
The recent cold snap has impeded some of the work.
Babcock & Brown purchased the wind farm about a year ago and is working with Gamesa to quiet the turbines, spokesman Matt Dallas said.
The problem appears to be with tape used in the manufacture of the rotors that turn the turbine blades, officials said.
It is isolated to a small section of the 40 turbines in the farm, Lutz said recently.
Turbine noise has been around for some time for residents of Portage and Juniata townships.
Jill Stull – who lives at the Juniata-Portage township line – reiterated her concern Monday, maintaining that the problem has been around since the start-up of the turbines.
“It’s the lay of the land, the way they are pitched, and it’s how fast they are running,” said Stull. “This is more of the same. I truly believe they were put in the wrong place.”
Last month, Stull and her husband, Todd, convinced Juniata officials to hire Paul Heishman, a sound engineer from Mechanicsburg, to monitor the noise.
Portage Township is considering the same.
“When (Heishman) comes in, we may have him do something,” Supervisor Ed Decort said. “But we’re contacting Gamesa, notifying them of our concerns to see what they can do.”
Measuring sound is a complicated matter, said Heishman, who Monday provided examples of sound levels.
Bird calls on a summer morning can be close to the 45-decibel level, he said. Being in the middle of a conversation typically puts the sound level at 60 decibels while a tractor-trailer traveling at 50 mph, 50 feet away bumps the level up the 90 decibels, he said.
“It’s not a real precise thing. It’s not an easy thing,” Heishman said.
The turbines are designed to operate quietly, Dallas said of the 18 windfarms in eight states run by Babcock & Brown.
“We don’t have any noise problems at any of the others,” he said.
By Kathy Mellott
10 December 2007
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