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Staff recommends PSC review noise at Pinnacle Wind Farm

In a complaint about excessive noise coming from turbines at the Pinnacle Wind Farm near Keyser, the Public Service Commission Staff recommends the commission pursue it, even though noise was not a condition of the siting certificate.

In the complaint, filed Feb. 22, Richard Braithwaite said the noise from the turbines keeps him awake at night and asked that the facility be shut down at night until the problem can be solved, Staff recounted in a March 28 memorandum.

Pinnacle, owned by Edison Mission Group of California, responded with the commission on March 7, arguing that since the company is not violating the “material terms and conditions” of its PSC siting certificate, the commission has no jurisdiction.

The company is aware of the noise problem and told the commission’s Engineering Division that it comes from the cooling system that is integral to the turbines. The company also has said that it has experienced no problems with the same Mitsubishi turbines installed in two other locations, and that Mitsubishi is testing a muffler system.

Staff noted in its March 28 memorandum that, although the noise problem does not violate a direct term or condition of the commission’s Jan. 11, 2010 order granting the siting certificate, it does contradict the commission’s findings of fact and conclusions of law.

The findings of fact documented the commission’s understanding that the maximum Pinnacle noise level for the most affected landowner was to be 56 decibels, and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends an outdoor noise level no higher than 55.

In addition, in its conclusions of law, the commission concluded that “the project will emit some noise, but the operational sound levels are expected to be similar to existing ambient sound levels and noise impacts are not expected to be objectionable because of the project.”

Braithwaite has claimed that the level at his house frequently exceeds 60 decibels inside, and 80 out.

Neither Pinnacle nor the commission expected noise levels of this magnitude, Staff wrote in its memorandum.

“It is ludicrous to argue that because the commission possibly had incorrect information … when it made its decision, it cannot now review the decision,” Staff wrote.

Staff recommends that the company be required to submit the results of studies conducted with regard to the complaint and to inform the commission of efforts to resolve the noise complaints and the results of its efforts.

Case documents may be found from the Public Service Commission web docket search page; search case number 12-0251-E-C.