Scituate – The two sides of the wind turbine issue have both hired engineering firms to perform two independent acoustical studies of the turbine.
For the study commissioned by the Scituate Board of Health, representatives from Tech Environmental of Waltham, and Noise Control Engineering of Billerica – the two firms that responded to the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project – each gave a presentation during an open meeting of the board of health on March 28.
A question and answer session followed where the representatives fielded questions from members of the board, as well as from Scituate Public Health Director Jennifer Sullivan, and Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC, and others in attendance.
After discussing the two candidates, the board unanimously agreed to hire the services of Tech Environmental.
Deane said Scituate Wind concurs with the decision of the board.
“While both firms have the qualifications to do the work, from a review of Tech Environmental’s statement of qualifications, and from answers provided during the interview session, Tech Environmental has clearly done more wind turbine work and more compliance test work,” he said, adding that Tech Environmental demonstrated that they know the protocol used by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), measuring at the quietest hours of the night to determine the maximum potential sound impact.
While principals of Scituate Wind have worked with both firms on other projects, Deane said Scituate Wind – as a company – has not worked with Tech Environmental in the past.
According to Deane, Scituate Wind did the initial review of the two proposals and provided comments and questions to the board of health regarding those proposals.
“The board followed up with many of the questions in Thursday evening’s session to help all of us get a clearer picture of the two firms’ qualifications and approaches,” Deane said.
The plan is that Tech Environmental will go out during both high and low tides, as requested by the community group, during the quietest hours of the day – generally midnight to 5 a.m. – to locations identified by the community group to be of concern, both to the east and the west of the turbine.
“The wind has to be generally blowing toward the sampling locations and at a speed sufficient to get the turbine up to full production, around 20 miles per hour, but not blowing so hard as to mask the sound of the turbine,” Deane said.
The projected cost of the testing is $19,900, which Scituate Wind has agreed to finance.
Deane said the study would begin immediately.
“The first step is for Tech Environmental to write up its testing protocol, which will be reviewed by Scituate Wind, the Scituate Board of Health, and the MassDEP,” he said. “Tech Environmental has stated that it would have the protocol prepared by Tuesday (April 2).”
Once the protocol is agreed to, with guidance from the Scituate Board of Health regarding timing of high and low tides, Tech Environmental will be watching the weather to identify when wind speeds and directions are appropriate for testing.
Tech Environmental will then notify the Scituate Board of Health, and Scituate Wind, to confirm that testing would be conducted that night.
Deane said that residents in the areas where the testing will be conducted would also be notified, to confirm the availability of those locations.
Community Group study
On April 1 it was announced that the community group had engaged the services of E-Coustic Solutions of Okemos, Michigan, to conduct an acoustical study simultaneously with the Scituate Wind study.
The request for the concurrent study is to ensure consistency of conditions.
Tom Thompson, who often acts as spokesman for a group of residents living near to the turbine known as the community group, said the group has been “doing some research on companies that are certified acoustical engineers with credibility and experience.”
“We wanted to find somebody that could articulate a very complicated environment in a fashion where people who aren’t experts in the field could understand,” Thompson said.
Thompson said that Richard James, the owner and principal consultant of E-Coustic Solutions, has over 40 years experience as an acoustical engineer and comes “highly recommended.”
“I always think a fresh face is never a bad thing as long as it comes with the impeccable credentials and credibility to back it up,” he said.
Thompson said the testing E-Coustic Solutions would be performing will be more extensive than the testing being done by Tech Environmental.
“They have executed a very limited scope of an acoustical study,” he said of the Scituate Wind test. “Their definition in their scope is an averaging of noise. If you have an average of something over an hour you will probably have a fairly low reading as there is not a consistency of noise.”
He said the community group felt is was important to advance a study that would accurately measure what is emanating from the turbine, “and engage someone who would deliver a study that people would actually have some confidence in.”
The cost of the study is confidential, Thompson said, due to price competitive purposes, but he did state neighbors of the turbine are privately funding the study.
And though E-Coustic Solutions is based in Michigan, Thompson said they have worked on projects throughout the U.S. and Canada.
As for scrambling to get to Scituate when the conditions are right to perform a test, Thompson said the idea is “ridiculous.”
“From my understanding, to do an accurate test we can reasonably predict, with modern technology, weather patterns,” he said, adding that there would be enough time to secure measurements.
Deane said Scituate Wind is pleased that the testing can begin and that Scituate Wind, the Scituate Board of Health, and the community can finally get the answers regarding whether the turbine is operating in compliance with its permit conditions.
“It was a longer than normal process given the back and forth with the community, and the fact that the board of health wanted oversight,” Deane said. “And the storms that delayed several meetings did not help.”
Thompson said it is felt among the neighbors that they are no further along than they were this past October when they initially brought the turbine issues to the attention of the board of health.
“From that very first night they said they would only do limited testing, and nothing has changed,” he said.
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