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Outside review critical of First Wind noise monitoring  

Credit:  Amy Ash Nixon, Staff Writer | The Caledonian Record | caledonianrecord.com 7 August 2012 ~~

SHEFFIELD – An independent review of the noise monitoring reports filed by First Wind, the operator of the 16 turbine wind farm here, is critical of the methodology employed, and of the same firm being used to both monitor and complete the first two compliance reports.

Because of concerns raised by some residents near the site, and the questions regarding the findings, the Vermont Department of Public Service is in the process of hiring its own independent consultant to conduct noise monitoring, a state official confirmed on Monday.

First Wind officials had not seen the report until Monday and issued this statement after obtaining a copy of the report critical of its noise monitoring program and compliance reports, “The sound-testing protocol that is in place was established through an extensive approval process with the Vermont Public Service Board that included review, input and comment by First Wind, the state’s sound experts and project opponents.”

“First Wind hired a highly-qualified company with nearly 40 years experience in acoustical consulting, whose certified professional engineering staff have authored numerous peer-reviewed publications on acoustical recording, to conduct the compliance monitoring at the Sheffield Wind Project,” the company noted. “To date, there have been two quarters of monitoring per the PSB approved protocol and the data has found the Sheffield Wind Project’s sound emissions to be well below the sound standards established in the protocol. A third quarter of testing was recently completed.”

In a report for the Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Inc., submitted in recent weeks, SE Ambrose & Associates Acoustics, Environmental Sound & Industrial Noise Control of Windham, Maine, noted that the monitoring and completion of compliance reports should be done by two separate entities.

First Wind used the same firm to do both.

“I was professionally disappointed to realize that the Noise Monitoring Plan and both compliance reports (to the Vermont Public Service Board, filed in June) were prepared by the same company,” stated Stephen Ambrose, the principal consultant in the review requested by Vermonters for a Clean Environment, of

Ambrose’s report reviewed the findings submitted to the Public Service Board on behalf of First Wind for its first two analyses of its Sound Monitoring Plan at the site – for winter and springtime conditions, Ambrose’s letter states.

“The Noise Monitoring Plan should not be performed by the company performing the compliance test,” noted Ambrose. “The regulatory agency has no way to show independence and lack of bias. This indicates the real potential for a ‘conflict of interest,’ especially when the company has the developer as a client on other projects,” he asserted.

Ambrose states in his report that the First Wind reports have errors, including in his view, the fact that First Wind used the same firm to conduct the test and complete the compliance reports to date; that the noise monitoring plan “does not require noise measurements during wind conditions where neighbors complain most,” and that “sound level analysis should have been made on data that is most representative for the levels that provoke a human response.”

Ambrose in his review stated, “The placement of these instruments (for noise monitoring) does not comply with good measurement practices or standards. Microphones must be positioned in open areas away from any surface that may block or reflect sound waves.”

Ambrose noted, “I found the report to be overly complex and difficult. I disagree with some of the technical discussions and at times found them to be weak and at times misleading. Unfortunately, there was no requirement or interest to assess the acoustic environment for potential negative human responses; i.e., complaints. This greatly weakens the ability for regulating agencies to understand why people are complaining.”

One local family, Luann and Steve Therrien, have expressed concerns for months over the noise they hear from the wind farm. The couple filed a complaint on June 11 with the Vermont Public Service Board, listing dates of concerns and how the noise is impacting the family and their two young children. Luann began logging the noise on April 23, she states in her complaint.

“We are very concerned about the long-term effects to our family being exposed day and night to the noise we can hear and to the low frequency sound we cannot hear,” their complaint noted. “Please consider this a formal complaint.”

The Vermonters for a Clean Environment are collecting information from people with concerns at [article ends] [http://windreporting.org/]

Source:  Amy Ash Nixon, Staff Writer | The Caledonian Record | caledonianrecord.com 7 August 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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