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PSC: Pinnacle Wind should take another listen to Green Mountain  

Credit:  Elaine Blaisdell, Cumberland Times-News, times-news.com 4 April 2012 ~~

The West Virginia Public Service Commission says its staff should take another look at noise from the Pinnacle Wind Farm on Green Mountain, according to a March 28 memorandum to Pinnacle Wind LLC.

Richard Brathwaite, a resident of Green Mountain, filed a formal complaint with the PSC on Feb. 22, citing that the noise inside his home exceeds 60 decibels and exceeds 80 decibels outside.

Braithwaite suggested the wind turbines be turned off at night. Braithwaite also noted that he gets migraines from the flickering shadows produced by sun filtering through the turning turbine blades.

Donald Walker, technical analyst for the PSC Engineering Division, has requested that Pinnacle provide any study results relating to noise.

At a Community Advisory Panel meeting in January, Brad Christopher, Edison Mission Energy project manager, acknowledged there was a noise emanating from a fan and indicated that a test louver system was being ordered from Mitsubishi to address it.

The system was installed. Edison is doing a final analysis on the noise reduction, said Parnell in an interview with the Times-News on Tuesday.

“The louver system was designed by Mitsubishi, which is the manufacturer of the wind turbines, I have no reason to doubt that it will work on these turbines,” said Parnell.

Neither of the wind farms that have Mitsubishi turbines in Sterling, Texas, and Telugu, Okla., have had complaints about noise, noted Christopher during the January meeting. However, both are located on mostly flat ridge lines. Christopher isn’t aware of any other Mitsubishi wind turbines that are located on mountains.

Edison Mission Energy has 10 days to respond to the PSC’s memorandum, according to Parnell.

In Pinnacle’s March 7 correspondence to PSC in response to Braithwaite’s complaint, they suggested that “this case should be dismissed with prejudice.”

PSC staff believes that although the noise complaints do not violate a direct term or condition, the complaint does allege violations of representations made by Pinnacle in its application and violations of Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law contained in the certificate order, according to the memorandum.

The state has no legislation in place to regulate wind turbine decibels, Susan Small, PSC communications director, explained in a January interview with the Times-News.

However, an ambient baseline noise study is needed before preconstruction.

The baseline study will develop a map that contains contour lines to show the potential for noise up to one mile from the generating facility’s property line.

“Pinnacle, nor the commission, expected noise levels of this magnitude. If noise levels are actually as high as the complainant alleges, Pinnacle is exceeding the noise levels inside a person’s home that the U.S. EPA believes is safe in the areas outside a person’s home,” the memorandum said. “Had the commission had this information before it when deciding whether to issue this certificate or not, the commission very well may have placed further conditions on this certificate to avoid exceeding the EPA’s noise guidelines for residential areas.”

The maximum operational noise level for the most affected landowner is 56 decibels.

The EPA recommends an outdoor noise level of no higher than 55 decibels for any residential areas, farms or areas where people spend time outdoors, according to the Findings of Fact.

“It is ludicrous to argue that because the commission possibly had incorrect information before it when it made its decision, it cannot now review that decision. Therefore, staff believes Pinnacle’s argument that this issue is beyond commission review should be rejected,” states staff in the memorandum.

Although not part of the main complaint, there are allegations that Pinnacle Wind LLC did not properly repair the roads that were damaged during construction of the project, according to the PSC memorandum.

“This issue has not been addressed by Pinnacle up until this point and staff believes Pinnacle should supply the commission with a description of the road restoration to date and any further planned restoration,” states the memorandum.

Edison has already stated publically that it will resurface the roads when weather permits, according to Charley Parnell, vice president of public affairs for Edison Mission Energy.

PSC case documents may be found at http://www.psc.state.wv.us/WebDocket/default.htm by searching case No. 12-0251-E-C.

Source:  Elaine Blaisdell, Cumberland Times-News, times-news.com 4 April 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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