KEYSER, W.Va. – In response to residents’ complaints about noise levels at the Pinnacle Wind Farm on Green Mountain, the project owner has asked the turbine manufacturer to come up with a muffler system to further curtail the noise, according to Charley Parnell, vice president of public affairs for Edison Mission Energy.
“We realized there was an issue. We are taking everything seriously and are doing everything we can do to be a good neighbor in the community,” said Parnell. “We are still looking at ways to further reduce noise from the project. As soon as we can, we will get a muffler installed on one of the turbines to see if it has positive results on noise reduction.”
If the muffler works, more will be ordered for the remaining wind turbines, according to Parnell.
A study determined that the wind turbines are in compliance with the requirements in the West Virginia Public Service Commission permit, said Parnell. The noise study was done by a qualified engineering firm that specializes in wind analysis, Parnell said, but he was unable to provide the name of the firm or the decibel levels that were documented.
The state has no legislation in place to regulate wind turbine decibels, according to Susan Small, PSC communications director. However, an ambient baseline noise study is needed before preconstruction. The baseline study develops a map that contains contour lines to show the potential for noise up to one mile from the generating facility’s property line.
The map shows the existing structures within the one-mile area and indicates whether the structure is residential, commercial or industrial. Contour lines are drawn for anything greater than three decibels, according to Small. A microphone is used in the area to determine the decibel level.
Richard Braithwaite, who lives three-quarters of a mile from the turbines, complained about the noise and presented a petition signed by 75 residents to the Mineral County commission during a Dec. 13 meeting.
“You have got to hear (the wind turbines) to believe it. When the wind blows from the east, it sounds like a railroad train,” said Braithwaite during the commission meeting.
Braithwaite said the noise comes and goes depending on the wind. The noise complaints come from the western side of the ridge, according to Parnell.
The petition requests that the PSC order the wind turbines be stopped from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. Because the wind turbines have been fully operational since December and a contract is in place to supply power, stopping them part of the time is not an option, said Parnell.
The petition also requests that the PSC order Edison Mission Energy to fix Pinnacle and Tasker roads. Tasker Road will be resurfaced in the spring and at this point, Parnell is unsure about what will be done to fix Pinnacle Road.
“We are making every effort to be good corporate citizens, listen to the neighbors and find out solutions to any perceived problems,” said Parnell.
On Dec. 14, Paul Wise, senior executive of Edison, met with about 15 concerned residents to find solutions to the problems, according to Parnell.
One of the main things that the petition requests is that the Mineral County commissioners refuse to sign a decommissioning agreement for industrial wind facility development in the county.
The PSC requires a decommissioning agreement and a post-construction study and analysis as part of the permitting process, according to Frank Maisano, a wind industry spokesman.
The Pinnacle project has helped to create jobs for the labor force in Keyser, said Maisano.
“The salvage value (from the wind turbines) alone has immense worth,” said Maisano. “I predict that once a post-construction analysis is done, we are going to see that a lot of the claims about adverse wildlife impacts are going to be far-fetched.”
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