The Portage Township supervisors are jumping into the fray over what some residents say is excessive noise from turbines at the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm.
Supervisors will hire a private sound engineer to determine the amount of noise made by the spinning turbines.
The move comes at the urging of residents who say the windmills sometimes operate at sound levels exceeding ordinance limits.
Two months ago, officials in Juniata Township, Blair County, ordered an independent sound study.
“We’re agreeing to work with them on this,” Supervisor Elwood Selapack said of a plan to hire Paul Heishman, a sound engineer from Mechanicsburg, to conduct noise studies.
A dollar limit on the study was not set by Portage Township officials, but the cost is not expected to exceed a few thousand dollars, based on a proposed fee for the Juniata work.
Built by Gamesa Energy USA and sold last year to Babcock & Brown, the wind farm is at the Cambria-Blair county line, and the turbines affect residents in both counties.
Heishman is expected to do the studies after Feb. 1, when steps being taken by Gamesa to eliminate the noise problems are completed, officials said Wednesday.
Local residents Bruce Brunett of Portage Township and Jill Stull of Juniata Township are convinced the noise – which they compare to the roar of a jet – is not the rotors, but a design flaw.
The townships have ordinances setting allowable noise limits from the turbines at 45 decibels, a level Heishman said is similar to bird calls on a summer day.
Juniata Supervisor Dave Kane said he heard the noise from the turbines and is concerned.
“They definitely have a problem. The windmills were making noise last week. They sounded like jet motors,” Kane said.
Babcock & Brown spokesman Matt Dallas said the company is hopeful that work to repair the turbine rotors will quiet the machines.
The company still is not convinced noise levels exceed maximum allowable levels.
Recent testing by a sound engineer showed the levels within the ordinance levels, Dallas said, adding the testing was done “under every condition.”
Of particular concern for Portage Township officials is the yet-to-be-completed second phase of the project, where many of the turbines overlook Martindale, a town of 150 homes about a half-mile from the site.
“The topography and configuration of the Martindale area is exactly what it is in Juniata Township. They’re down in the valley, and they’re going to get the noise,” Brunett said.
Meanwhile, Babcock & Brown said it wants to be a good neighbor.
“We’re willing to do what it takes to make sure we are within those (ordinance) guidelines,” Dallas said.
By Kathy Mellott
16 January 2008
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