The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center has agreed to commission a shadow flicker study of Kingston’s wind turbines.
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center spokesman Catherine Williams confirmed there will be a study.
“We’re developing the scope for the shadow flicker study,” she said. “We’ll be providing basic data about the number of homes affected by flicker and the times during the year when they might be affected. We will provide that data to the town and to the turbine owners so that it may inform their future turbine management decisions.”
CEC made this commitment Friday at a meeting at the State House Friday that Rep. Tom Calter, D-Kingston, arranged. The meeting also included Kingston officials, concerned Country Club Way resident Tim Dwyer and officials from the state departments of environmental management and public health.
“It was simply an opportunity to ask questions,” Calter said.
The meeting was the result of a two-part commitment he made to a group of residents in February, Calter said. The first part was ensuring that DEP would provide quality-control support as part of the Independence acoustical monitoring study.
The second was to arrange a meeting at which DEP and DPH would present the results of a January 2012 study of available data on noise, flicker and vibration from wind turbines. That was the meeting Friday at the State House.
Dywer said he thought the meeting was a positive one in regards to state officials being commited to following through on residents’ concerns. He said he thought it was a constructive dialogue and thanked Calter for his responsiveness in being willing to set up the meeting.
“I left feeling the DEP and CEC are actively engaged in trying to assess the situation in Kingston such that local boards can take action appropriate to what the results will show,” he said.
On the issue of flicker, Dwyer said it’s clear there are no flicker regulations. He said he encouraged the state to address flicker at a state level, because Kingston can’t be the only town facing this issue.
While CEC has made this offer, and the Board of Health voted Monday night to request that CEC conduct a flicker study, Williams said it is MassCEC’s preference that the developers of the five turbines in town work in partnership with the town of Kingston to conduct flicker studies and share the data with the public.
If the developers (Kingston Wind Independence, No Fossil Fuel Inc. and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority) don’t conduct these studies, Williams said, MassCEC will.
Monday night’s Board of Health meeting grew heated when board members discussed what they expected to be an April 1 public hearing on establishing flicker regulations. There is no April 1 public hearing.
Instead, an information gathering session on flicker is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 22. This decision was made after town counsel weighed in about what qualifies as a public hearing with its associated posting requirements. Board members had questioned whether the meeting was properly noticed.
Tuesday night, the Board of Selectman briefly discussed a letter from the Board of Health requesting selectmen to direct town counsel to negotiate with Kingston Wind Independence to mitigate shadow flicker. The letter was sent before the announcement of the flicker study that Calter said would be done at no cost to the town.
The letter received short shrift after Casna informed selectmen that a flicker study would be conducted. Selectmen quickly decided 3-0-1 against sending a request to Kingston Wind Independence. Selectman Sandy MacFarlane abstained due to a conflict of interest.
Selectman Dick Arruda said the board should not take taking any such action until after the flicker study has been done.
“If they’re going to commence a study, why would we?” he said.
In the meantime, the acoustical monitoring study of the Independence has begun. According to the final scope, data will be collected from various monitoring locations when the turbine is operating normally and when it’s shut down.
Williams said the data that’s collected will be provided to DEP for use in determining compliance with noise guidelines.
“We will collect data that will be provided to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the projects for use in determining compliance with the statewide noise guidelines,” she said. “We’ve coordinated with MassDEP to ensure the data collection adheres to their compliance protocol.”
The study schedule calls for study area visit, site selection and acoustical monitoring to be completed by May 3, data analysis and other tasks by May 17, completion of a draft study report to DEP by May 31 and release of the draft report by June 14. The draft report will be circulated to all stakeholders and written comments will be accepted.
Some residents have challenged the testing protocol and the length of the study. Dwyer said it would be his hope that CEC would extend the study if the nights they choose aren’t representative of the range of conditions, specifically if there’s little wind during those times.
Dwyer said he also expressed concern about the testing methodology. He said the DEP deputy commissioner assured him that the most relevant technology would be used, so hopefully the most up-to-date scientific approach will be taken.
The acoustical study focuses on the Independence turbine only and does not include the three wind turbines owned by Mary O’Donnell of No Fossil Fuel. The Board of Health has requested that DEP conduct a compliance study of the O’Donnell turbines.
Dwyer said he presented at the State House meeting the same information he presented to the Board of Health and was told the DEP would look into it. He submitted documentation he says shows that O’Donnell knew the wind turbines would be out of compliance.
He based this conclusion on studies for a 1.5-megawatt turbine, let alone a 2-megawatt one. He said it’s proven fact that sound levels increase as wattage increases.
“I am hopeful upon review the DEP would acknowledge there is very likely to be a problem here,” he said.
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