NEW ROSS – Computer models predict none of the property owners appealing the South Canoe Wind Farm will experience adverse noise or be bothered by shadows from it, an environmental scientist testified Tuesday.
Melanie Smith of Strum Consulting headed up the team that conducted the environmental assessment for what will be the largest wind farm in the province, if it goes ahead.
She told a Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board hearing Tuesday that the environmental assessment looked at everything from birds, wetlands, flora and species at risk to sound emissions and shadow flicker – the shadows a turbine’s blades might cast inside a person’s home.
Smith said noise levels and shadow-flicker predictions were generated, with the aid of a computer software program developed by independent scientists, for all properties located within two kilometres of any one of the project’s proposed 34 turbines.
“None of the predicted noise levels exceed 40 (decibels) and there isn’t a shadow flicker expected in a receptor location,” Smith said of tests done on properties owned by wind-farm opponents Homburg Land Bank and Friends of South Canoe Lake.
Provincial Environment Department regulations say that at night noise levels outside a house cannot go above 40 decibels, which Smith said is the standard used across Europe, in Ontario and adopted by the World Health Organization.
In terms of noise, Smith said the computer model showed that sound levels did not hit 40 decibels on any property with a structure on it.
However, she said 14 vacant lots, four of which are privately owned, did have levels above 40 decibels, though two of them also had “significant areas” that fell below that level.
Smith said the province’s approval requires ongoing monitoring to ensure noise levels do not exceed Environment Department’s standards when the wind farm is in operation, though the approval does not specify what that level is.
Emery Peters, a member of Friends of South Canoe Lake, asked if any studies had been done in which known sounds were emitted to see if the model’s predictions were accurate.
“That’s not a practice I’ve ever seen employed,” Smith said.
The test results have a margin of error of two to three decibels, she said.
Because of residents’ concerns, Smith said she also reviewed scientific literature on infrasound, a very low frequency that people typically can’t hear.
Those studies showed “the levels of infrasound that are produced by turbines fall well below levels that are audible by humans and have not been shown to have a direct link to human health,” she said.
The shadow-flicker analysis assumes constant sunshine every day, that a home’s windows are perpendicular to the turbines and that the sun is behind the turbines, which Smith described as “a theoretical maximum that in practise could never be achieved.”
Environmental regulations allow for 30 cumulative hours of shadow flicker a year but the model showed “no accumulation of shadow flicker” on any of the properties tested, she said.
Smith also said all of the golf course’s chalets are farther away from the turbines than is required by provincial Environment Department’s regulations, which require a 550-metre setback from homes.
In light of all the assessments, she said there is no environmental, human-health or safety reason for Homburg not to proceed with plans to expand its golf and country club, which is on property adjacent to the wind farm. Frank Matheson, Hombur’s vice-chairman, testified last week that the company will not build a second golf course as planned if the wind farm is built.
The $200-million project proposed by Nova Scotia Power Inc., Mina Basin Pulp and Power Ltd. and Oxford Frozen Foods Ltd. was approved last July by the provincial Environment Department but a development agreement with the District of Chester has not yet been signed.
Testimony is now complete and each side will summarize its case today.
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