Recognizing potential shortfalls of current noise regulations, the state Department of Environmental Protection has formed an advisory group to help steer the agency’s policy.
The 16-member technical advisory group includes acousticians, public health professionals, representatives of the wind industry and a neighbor to the Falmouth Wind turbines. The group will consider changes to MassDEP noise regulations and policy as they relate to wind turbines.
“It is an acknowledgement that noise from wind turbines is different,” DEP spokesman Edmund Coletta said.
In Massachusetts, any noise source is considered in violation of noise regulations if it is more than 10 decibels louder than ambient noise, or the background noise level of a particular area or neighborhood. Those regulations do not take into account the different nature of noise from wind turbines, which many say can be more irritating because of its “wooshing” quality, called amplitude modulation.
“When the blades are spinning, the sound is different; the amplitude modulation makes it different,” Coletta said. “That’s really what the group is looking at more than anything else.”
The group will meet once in August, September and October in Boston before making its recommendations in November.
As part of its recommendations, the advisory group will consider the results of a 2012 Wind Turbine Health Impacts Study and an ongoing research study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on wind turbine acoustics. That study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The group will also look at the sound sampling practices used by MassDEP in their tests in Falmouth and Fairhaven.
Louise Barteau, a member of Windwise, which opposes the Fairhaven turbines, said the make-up of the group made her hopeful. The inclusion of Falmouth turbine neighbor Todd Drummy on the panel represents to her “a small step forward for wind turbine neighbors.”
She said she was also pleased to see that Stephen Ambrose is one of a few acousticians on the panel.
Ambrose’s work has often been cited by Fairhaven turbine opponents in their quest to have the turbines turned off.
One of his often-quoted studies deals with his examination of inaudible sound waves known as infrasound coming from Falmouth’s wind turbines. According to the study, Ambrose and his research partner became sick with headaches and nausea while they were taking measurements for the study at a Falmouth home, something they attributed to infrasound from the turbines.