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Noise from Herkimer Co. wind turbines to be studied again

For the second time this year, a study will be conducted to address concerns about sound levels at the Hardscrabble Wind Farm.

After 37 turbines began operating on Jan. 31 in the Herkimer County towns of Fairfield and Norway, some residents started complaining about the turbines producing too much noise.

A study conducted earlier this year found that the noise level in some instances went above the 50-decibel level required in the permits for the turbines, Fairfield town Supervisor Richard Souza said.

Another, more extensive study will be conducted starting in late October or early November, Souza said.

“We’ll have a better idea of what the noise level is, and we’ll be able to sit down with the company and get it corrected,” he said.

The wind project developer Iberdrola Renewables paid for the first study to be conducted earlier this year at the request of town officials and landowners. The second study also will be paid for by the developer, town and company officials said.

A noise level of 50 decibels is often compared to the sound from a refrigerator motor running. The decibel level of a “normal conversation” is about 60 decibels, according to information provided by Iberdrola.

The first study showed noise levels reaching 60 to 65 decibels in some instances, and the permits restrict the decibel level from going above 50 – including the turbines and background noise combined, Souza said.

But the instances in the study when the noise levels were higher than 50 decibels were primarily when there were extreme wind speeds, Iberdrola spokesman Paul Copleman said. The sounds were largely due to other factors from the wind speed such as the rustling of leaves, he said.

“We didn’t consider that to be attributable to the wind farm,” he said.

That means the developers believe they’re not in violation of the wind ordinances, but the issue does warrant further studying, Copleman said.

Fairfield resident Jimmy Salamone, who lives near turbines on Davis Road in Fairfield, said the noise level has become an ongoing problem for many people in the area.

“The noise is really bad on Davis Road – very hard to live with,” Salamone said. “It’s way too loud, and it gets louder at night for some reason.”

But Salamone thinks that instead of conducting another study, something should be done to address the noise levels found in the other study earlier this year, he said.

Donald Dixon, 75, who has two wind turbines on his property at Route 170 in Fairfield, said he doesn’t believe a noise study is necessary.

“To be honest with you, I don’t even notice them,” Dixon said.

Dixon believes the people complaining about noise are the same people who complained before the turbines were put up and that they just want to continue with their complaints, he said.

Souza said he has dealt with “quite a few” complaints scattered throughout the town. It should take about three weeks to complete the study once it begins, he said. The angle and speed of the turbine blades could potentially be altered in response to the results if necessary, he said.

The first study looked at three sites in Fairfield and one in Norway, Souza said. The new study will review five sites in Fairfield and one in Norway, while also looking into more details about the time of the day and factors in the noise levels, he said.