August 9, 2011

Environmental board debates wind noise

Written by Ken Christian, NEWS CENTER, 8 August 2011

The state’s top environmental regulators are trying to come up with new rules to control the noise made by those big commercial windmills. Opponents of wind power cite noise as one of their major complaints, and it has become the apparent achilles heel of commercial wind farms in Maine.

The Mars Hill project and the smaller Vinalhaven wind project have both resulted in ongoing complaints from neighbors about notice. The Vinalhaven complaints have trigged a lawsuit against the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

That department’s Board of Environmental Protection has been working since December to decide if Maine needs tougher noise standards. Acting DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho says the existing noise rules come from 1989, long before there were any wind farms envisioned for the state.

A group of wind power critics and opponents petitioned the BEP with a proposal for much lower noise levels. The DEP staff made its own recommendations which were not as dramatic as those from the petitioners.

The Board today voted to approve rules close to what the department staff had recommended. Most controversial: reducing allowable night time noise levels for wind farms to 42 decibels., with a possible “safety factor” of up to 3 decibels less in some cases, at the discretion of the department. That proposal will be put out to public comment for the next three weeks.

The Board will take a final vote in September.

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