September 20, 2013

Scituate turbine testing criteria changed

By Jessica Bartlett, Town Correspondent | September 19, 2013 |

Noise testing for Scituate’s 400-foot tall turbine will change slightly from now on, with Board of Health officials changing the guidelines this week.

Under the new criteria, winds must be traveling from the west/southwest direction, and be moving at a high enough speed, approximately 19 miles per hour, to have the turbine at 60 percent power output.

Board of Health officials have also specified that the conditions must be met, and cannot be aborted if either the wind speed or direction dies down once testing begins.

“There was no consideration to wait [for a different season],” said Board of Health Director Jennifer Sullivan. “It’s when the conditions are right. In fact, we all want it to be over.”

The Board also looked into the idea of “fast metering”, which takes more samples of sound per second than “slow metering”. Although a similar type of testing is being employed in Kingston to study their turbines’ noise, Scituate decided against the practice.

“There is no standard for the fast testing and [the Department of Environmental Protections] said, though they approved it at the Kingston turbine, it was with the understanding that compliance would be determined with slow testing criteria,” Sullivan said.

Because the fast testing would also cost additional money, only slow metering will be conducted.

Moving forward, Sullivan said she hopes turbine owners can work something out with the consultant for the neighborhood group to agree on good testing days.

Turbine owner Gordon Deane said he was amendable to the changes, but doubted the ability to work with the neighbor’s engineer, who is out of Michigan.

“Just as we had the sampling event on Aug. 14 and 15, where first they complained it was too windy then just right and not windy enough, wind conditions change. And it’s difficult to schedule something…from Michigan and get down here and expect the weather is going to be what you expect it to be,” Deane said.

Deane said engineer Tech Environmental was still proposing dates for future testing.

“We’ll consider anything [the residents] propose, but the Board of Health has left that decision making to us,” Deane said.

Residents were more optimistic of finding good testing conditions, citing a wind rose that showed the primary wind direction at the turbine is southwest or west/southwest.

“We’re encouraged that the Board of Health has agreed to take a look at the west/southwest condition. They still need to get their head around the speed as opposed to the power issue,” said Tom Thompson, spokesman for the neighborhood group.

Thompson said what’s really important is to have low wind speeds at the ground level and high wind speeds at the hub. Seeing how many nights residents say they have often been impacted by such conditions, the criteria shouldn’t be too difficult to meet, he said.

Residents are still pushing for fast metering to be done within noise testing.

With proper wind speed, the corrected wind direction, and fast metering, Thompson said neighbors would move forward with testing dates.

“If we get those three points we’re in a good spot to start organized testing,” Thompson said.

Board of Health officials have been seeking to test the turbine’s noise for months after residents complained of health effects from the turbine. Only one sampling has been done to date; however, Board of Health officials and residents disputed the results as being flawed.

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