While the Derby area is only beginning to battle over wind turbines, those affected by the Lowell wind project are approaching the end of their regulatory process.
One of the outstanding issues – how to measure the sound impact after the 21 Lowell turbines are operating – has now been resolved.
State utility regulators this week issued an order outlining the noise monitoring procedures at homes and roads near the Lowell wind project.
The Vermont Public Service Board said in the order that this plan helps Green Mountain Power meet one more condition needed before the turbines can operate.
The PSB issued a certificate of public good for the Lowell wind project to GMP last May. The sites on the ridgeline are partly constructed, with the crane path mostly complete. GMP has said that construction would resume sometime in the spring and the project is on track to be operating before the end of the year.
But some conditions are still being met.
In the noise monitoring order, the PSB approved of GMP’s amended plan with some changes to address concerns raised by the towns of Albany and Craftsbury and the Lowell Mountain Group.
The board noted that the noise-monitoring plan is different than what was required for the Sheffield wind project – pointing out that the parties identified some problems with the original plan.
Board members James Volz, David Coen and John Burke agreed with the Department of Public Service in saying that the monitoring will involve a neutral third party observer to oversee the first two-week monitoring period to assess compliance with the certificate of public good.
Ideally, the board said the third party will be someone agreed to by GMP, the Department of Public Service and the towns and the Lowell Mountain Group.
If they can’t agree, then the board would make the choice.
“The third party’s role shall include review of the placement of microphones at the monitored locations, as well as review of the data collected,” stated the PSB members.
The third party shall file a report with the board about whether the turbines’ sound levels were accurately captured, whether the data was sufficient, and recommendations if any for altering the plan to ensure the maximum sound levels for the wind project are being captured, the board stated.
The board could extend the third-party review of additional monitoring based on the report. GMP will pay for the third-party observer.
Also, the board ordered GMP to find a place on Eden Road to measure maximum sound levels and near the Christiansen residence. GMP must “make every reasonable effort to site microphones in a manner that will maximize the probability of capturing the maximum noise levels at each monitoring location,” the PSB stated.
GMP must react within four weeks to a noise-related complaint, not the three months GMP requested, the board said.
The board detailed how the testing must be done if measurements are near the level of a violation.
“GMP shall make all reasonable efforts to conduct such monitoring under conditions similar to those existing at the time the complaint arose,” the board stated.
And GMP must do testing during times when the temperature falls below 14 degrees, with the board acknowledging that some tests may not be accurate at those temperatures. GMP is allowed to explain why the data would be faulty.
The board did not require extended monitoring times and more nighttime monitoring as requested by the towns and the Lowell Mountain Group, saying that residents have method for filing complaints and getting additional testing if problems occur.