LOWELL – Green Mountain Power still wants neighbors to prove that noise from its 21 turbines on the Lowell ridgeline would be loud enough to limit land development.
The Vermont Public Service Board told GMP that its noise compensation plan was too restrictive – forcing neighbors to go so far as to show they could get state permits for development of their land. That was too much for the board.
The board also wanted GMP to let neighbors use a “sound level contour” map that was presented during hearings last year before the board about where the noise from the turbines could be most significant.
GMP agreed with most of the state’s utility regulators’ requirements and rewrote its noise compensation plan as required before the turbines become operational.
The turbines are being erected now, with seven up last week and all 21 are due to go online before the end of the year. The turbine tower sections and blades are being shipped by truck across Orleans County from the rail yards in Island Pond to Lowell.
Meanwhile, opponents have appealed the project’s certificate of public good to the Vermont Supreme Court. And other appeals are ongoing.
The maps were based on conservative computer models and were used to demonstrate that the turbines could be erected to meet the noise limit standards set by the board, GMP officials said.
“As a result of the conservative nature of the maps and the consequent likely overstatement of actual sound levels, it was not intended to form the basis for determining actual, post-operational sound levels,” GMP officials said.
And the board wanted extensive noise monitoring, GMP said.
“Simply put, there is no reason not to use the most accurate information available,” GMP stated in its response.
GMP’s proposed noise compensation plan requires neighbors to monitor noise levels.
Neighbors who oppose the GMP draft plan said they shouldn’t have to pay to test for sound that affects their property.
GMP also wants the board to be the arbiter of disputes over noise levels, since the board is handling other conditions of the certificate of public good for the Lowell wind project and is doing the same for the First Wind project in Sheffield.
GMP now wants neighbors to show that they could develop their land, by showing that it is zoned residential and doesn’t have obstacles like steep slopes, lack of access or wetlands to hinder that development before compensation is reached.
GMP also wants neighbors to either use the current grand list value for their property or have another appraisal done at their own expense.
The opponents had said that GMP should set aside money to help neighbors pay for anything required to determine if compensation is due over noise impacts on property values.
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