A new report from Green Mountain Power (GMP) shows that sound levels from its 21-turbine wind project on Lowell Mountain were within the boundaries of its permit in late spring.
On Wednesday, however, the Vermont Public Service Board called for an Aug. 8 hearing to consider sanctioning the utility for exceeding that limit last winter.
Two previous sound studies found that the Kingdom Community Wind Project generated noise above 45 decibels outside neighboring residences. That is the threshold the project is not to exceed, according to its certificate of public good.
During the 4,756 hours of sound testing in the winter, GMP reports the project surpassed 45 decibels for a total of 4.16 hours.
“Out of the 4.16 hours, 2.16 hours were three-tenths of a decibel or less over 45 DBA,” GMP spokeswoman Dotty Schnure said. “More than half of the time it exceeded the standard, it did it by three-tenths of a decibel or less.”
GMP representatives say snow is the cause of the elevated sound levels in winter.
“We looked at what was going on during the periods that we exceeded, and we determined that the snow sticking to the blade caused the noise,” Schnure said. “Since we’ve identified the conditions that caused the noise, we’re putting in imaging equipment to identify when the snow is building, so we can shut down the turbines and avoid the type of noise that we dealt with in the past.”
There is not a consensus from community members that noise is an issue. While some residents in Lowell and surrounding towns say that the noise keeps them up at night, and others say that it even makes them sick, numerous residents that live within short distance of the project say that they can’t hear the turbines or that the noise doesn’t bother them.
In one of the Public Service Board orders issued this week, the board said it would not adjust the current noise standard of 45 decibels, which was questioned by the Lowell Mountains Group, inc. and a lawyer from the towns of Albany and Craftsbury.
“We do acknowledge that LMG has submitted a number of written noise complaints that appear to have been collected by the group Vermonters for a Clean Environment,” the board wrote. “However, we also note that the Town of Lowell submitted comments which indicate that many of the residents that live within two miles of the turbines either do not hear any turbine noise at all, or what they do hear is difficult to distinguish from typical background sounds in the community.“
The most recent sound study GMP conducted for the project drew from 1,343 hours of noise data, from May 22 to June 5. The utility reported that the project didn’t exceed the sound threshold during that period.
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