Any proof that the operating noise levels of turbines in the Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm are violating local ordinances, as claimed by residents, may be a while in coming.
Paul Heishman, a Mechanicsburg sound expert who agreed last year to analyze the noise at the wind turbines, is no longer able to do the study, leaving local officials searching for a new expert.
“The expert identified at the last meeting is no longer available, and we need to find somebody new,” Portage Township Solicitor C.J. Webb said.
Heishman cited family reasons for not undertaking the study, officials of Juniata Township, Blair County, said.
The Juniata officials are taking the lead in the search for a new sound expert and are leaning toward a Vermont resident, they said.
Portage and Juniata townships expect to split what is expected to be about $10,000 for the study, likely to cover several days with a focus on a variety of wind directions and environmental conditions.
“There are many factors to look at. It’s going to have to be done over a period of time,” Webb said.
Portage Township residents including Bruce Brunett and Juniata Township residents Todd and Jill Stull have complained that the turbines at times run at noise levels far above the 40-decibel limits spelled out in ordinances adopted by both municipalities two years ago.
They live near where township lines for Portage, Juniata and Greenfield, also in Blair County, converge.
Brunett wants to be sure that the expert chosen to do the study provides an unbiased analysis of the turbine noise.
“I caution against picking an expert who is associated with the wind industry,” he said.
But equally important is that the expert can work with Babcock & Brown, Webb said. The Australian-based company purchased Allegheny Ridge phase one from developer Gamesa Energy USA more than a year ago.
Babcock representative David Smith said work to replace tape on turbine rotors was geared at reducing the noise level.
Smith said Babcock wants any problems resolved, but until it is proven the noise levels violate the ordinance, the operation will continue as is.
“Our position is we’re operating under the permit limits and we’ll continue until we’re shown we’re not,” he said.
Meanwhile, Webb is urging both sides to keep an open mind.
“It’s as much in their interest to resolve it as it is in ours,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure the Portage Township ordinance is honored.”
By Kathy Mellott
10 March 2008
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