LOWELL – State utility regulators have concluded that it is in the best interests of everyone – including neighbors of the Lowell wind project – that a better way be found to explain noise monitoring results of the project’s 21 turbines.
But the Vermont Public Service Board will not require project owner Green Mountain Power to pay for an independent noise expert to assist neighbors Don and Shirley Nelson in the exercise.
This is one of several noise monitoring cases involving GMP and the Lowell wind project that are before the Public Service Board.
One other case involves several instances in the winter of 2013 when monitoring recorded sounds at higher levels than allowed by sound standards that the board accepted.
The state Department of Public Service, which represents utility customers, has recommended a penalty of more than $50,000 and the Nelsons want GMP to continuously monitor sound from the turbines. That case is still being reviewed.
The board is also preparing to conduct workshops on whether the sound standards themselves are adequate for renewable energy generation projects including wind, given the complaints about noise that have come up even when the noise monitoring shows that the standards are being met.
Complex Noise Reports
In the case over the complexity of noise monitoring reports, the Nelsons have complained that the reports as required by the Public Service Board are “overly difficult to understand” and lack information.
GMP is required to file noise monitoring reports for nine different monitoring periods. Those began during construction of the Lowell turbines in the fall of 2012 and are continuing through the first two years of operations.
GMP has acknowledged a need to make the noise monitoring reports easier to understand. GMP proposed a workshop to discuss that and how to bring more clarity to future reports.
The Nelsons said they would like to participate in the workshop, but wanted GMP to pay for an expert to assist them “to represent their interests … and to level the playing field between themselves, GMP and the Department.”
GMP is opposed to that, saying that the department can hire experts and force GMP to bear the cost, not other parties.
A collaborative effort to figure out the best way to present noise reports is needed, according to the board.
A workshop focused on how to draft reports that are easier to understand is scheduled, with the understanding that it “will not be a forum for discussion of the sound standard applicable to the project” or the methodology that GMP is using to study noise, the board stated.
Participation is limited to the Nelsons, the department, and any other party given status to intervene when it comes to noise from turbines.
And the board stated in its order on Wednesday that the relevant laws governing these matters “does not grant the board the authority to require petitioners (GMP) to fund the retention of experts for any other parties to board proceedings.”
And even if such an authority existed, the board wouldn’t require it for a workshop to simplify reports, since that is not a highly technical matter.
The board still encourages the Nelsons to attend to help format future noise reports.
The workshop will be held April 25 at 1:30 p.m. at the board’s hearing room in Montpelier.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding