Too much time is being lost relative to performing acoustical studies of the Scituate Wind turbine and this has the Scituate Board of Health, among other stakeholders, concerned.
During the board’s meeting on August 12, board members, along with Scituate Public Health Director, Jennifer Sullivan, discussed the complexities of the testing requirements – wind speed, wind direction, tides, etc., and how the conditions have yet to prove favorable for testing.
Sullivan said the board of health is aware that people are unhappy because testing has not occurred yet.
“The board is not pleased with that as well,” she said. “The problem has been meeting the parameters of the (Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection) DEP protocol in terms of, at night, a particular wind direction and at a particular wind speed during good weather.”
She said another criteria that was agreed on is testing being done during a fairly high tide.
“Typically, winter is the optimum testing season for the maximum variation between ambient sound and a possible noise source,” she said.
This past spring both sides of the turbine issue – the town, along with Palmer Capital Corporation, the manager of Scituate Wind, LLC, and the community group comprised of residents living near to the turbine – hired separate engineering firms to perform two independent acoustical studies of the turbine.
At that time the plan was that Waltham-based Tech Environmental, the company hired by the town in April to perform the acoustical tests on the wind turbine, would 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.
Gordon Deane, president of Palmer Capital Corporation, said it was important that the wind be blowing toward the sampling locations and at a speed sufficient to get the turbine up to full production, approximately 20 miles per hour, but not blowing so hard as to mask the sound of the turbine.
Including input from the community group, Tech Environmental wrote its testing protocol, which was reviewed by Scituate Wind, the Scituate Board of Health, and the MassDEP.
With the approval of the testing protocol, Tech Environmental would watch the weather to determine when wind speeds and wind directions would be conducive for testing. The Scituate Board of Health, along with residents in the testing area, would be notified that testing would be taking place that night.
Also notified would be E-Coustic Solutions, of Okemos, Michigan, the firm hired by the community group to conduct an acoustical study simultaneously with the Scituate Wind study.
The community group’s request for the concurrent study is to ensure consistency of conditions, according to the group’s spokesman, Tom Thompson.
Yet, the call to begin the testing has not come.
Not the right conditions
“The neighbors of the Scituate Wind turbine share everyone’s confusion as to why the acoustical testing has not, as yet, been conducted,” Thompson said. “There have been a number of evenings where optimal test conditions have existed, including May 30th and 31st.”
He said on May 28th, the neighbors were advised that Tech Environmental was considering May 30th and 31st for testing.
“However, during the morning of May 30th we were advised that this test schedule was scrubbed because the forecast had been changed to light southwest winds of less than seven miles per hour,” he said. “From our own personal experiences I can tell you that these were optimal conditions for acoustical testing of industrial wind turbines and there have been similar conditions before and since.”
According to Deane, the testing delays have been primarily weather related.
“The community group requested testing during specific wind conditions (downwind and certain wind speeds) and tidal conditions which the community group said represented the worst noise conditions. Basically those specific weather conditions have not occurred.”
Deane points out that much of June was rainy and stormy and at the end of June (June 24) the turbine was hit multiple times by lightning, which took several weeks for repair.
“Of course, we could not do any testing in those situations,” he said.
Gilson Road resident David Dardi, who attended the August 12 board of health meeting, said while he has not seen the actual protocol submitted by Tech Environmental, he feels the complexity of the protocol is inhibiting the testing.
“I am confused by the laxity of Tech Environment to do any testing,” said Dardi, a civil engineer and land surveyor. “It seems simple to me; by just listening to the local TV forecast I can predict when to test.”
Scituate Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi reiterated that the wind conditions established by the community group and agreed to by the town have not yet occurred.
“We are all disappointed that Mother Nature has not cooperated, and share the community group’s frustration that conditions have prevented some data being obtained,” she said. “But these delays are not a dereliction of duty on the part of the board of health, Tech Environmental, or Scituate Wind LLC.”
Deane said it is interesting that the weather conditions, which originally were reported as the most troublesome, have been so hard to reproduce.
“That could be a factor of different weather patterns during different seasons or just that those conditions are not that frequent,” he said.
The most disruptive evenings, according to Thompson, are when there is almost a dead calm outside their windows, “but the turbine is turning and we can hear it distinctly while we are attempting to sleep.”
This is something he said many residents who live in the neighborhood near to the turbine have experienced since the turbine went online in early spring of 2012.
“In fact, I am aware of a number of folks who had very disruptive nights during that entire period with these exact sort of conditions, and many wrote Mr. Deane and Ms. Sullivan to advise accordingly,” he said.
It’s to the point where Deane said Scituate Wind has told the board of health that it will instruct Tech Environmental to test during other conditions for the four nights of sampling they have been contracted for.
“But that instruction has to come initially from the board of health,” he said. “We have even suggested that the opponents and their consultant can pick the nights if they want alternate wind and tide conditions than they originally requested, but that too has to be blessed by the board of health.”
Deane said their opponents would criticize Scituate Wind if it does not follow protocol, just as Scituate Wind is being criticized for following protocol.
Dardi said he doesn’t believe all the testing can be accomplished in one session.
“This will require many set ups to gather the information correctly,” he said.
Sullivan said the Scituate Board of Health would be requesting Deane and Tech Environmental attend the next board meeting on August 26 to discuss testing protocol and scheduling in hopes that some testing can be done in the near future.
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