KINGSTON – A wind turbine abatement order to be issued to Kingston Wind Independence comes with an extra spin.
The issue before Kingston’s Board of Health Monday night was to consider adopting an order that would mitigate acoustic annoyances for neighbors of the wind turbine Independence. Preliminary findings of a study conducted in March showed that the turbine exceeded the state’s maximum allowable noise levels measured at a nearby Schofield Road home, reaching 10 decibels or more on two occasions. Turbine neighbors have complained ardently of excessive noise continually compromising their family life during the past two years. After several hearings on the matter the Board of Health charged counsel Jay Talerman with drafting an appropriate abatement order.
Talerman’s draft order – made in consultation with stakeholders from the town, KWI, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and consultants Harris, Miller, Miller, and Hanson (who conducted the study), and adopted by the board Monday – calls for “a modification at the very least if not an outright shutdown” of turbine operations from midnight to 4 a.m. when the wind is traveling from the south or southwest at eight meters per second or more at the turbine hub.
This order will be in place year round, although that is subject to future review. Talerman said arrangements were underway for another study to be conducted this summer. If favorable results are shown, the board could on its own or on KWI’s initiative modify the order.
HMMH will conduct an ambience study this summer during planned shutdown maintenance. The CEC representative said turbine sound then can be laid over that to determine whether the sound is too loud.
By “modification at the very least,” Talerman intended that KWI have the right to put the Independence into “a so-called low noise mode.”
Mitigating the turbine noise could mean it would have to shut down. But KWI will have the option of using technology to control the turbine during wind speeds around eight meters per second to slow it, reducing its noise level. Talerman said KWI is working now to effect that. He added that it is hard for KWI, at this time, to make quick decisions based on wind direction and speed. But, he said, if KWI can control when the low noise mode goes on or off based on wind speed, the turbine could operate 24 hours a day.
The order states that if KWI is unable to regulate the turbine appropriately, then it must shut down. If KWI does employ a low noise mode it must conduct a study within 90 days of implementation to confirm compliance.
The acoustic study showed that during the hours of 1 and 3 a.m., when ambient noise is diminished, sound from the turbine becomes more present. When other noise variables, Talerman noted, such as highway traffic or wind speed, increase, then the turbine sound becomes less present, to within state noise allowances. Talerman noted that while the hours in question ranged from 1 to 3 a.m., it was determined that conditions at that time could be extrapolated to additional hours, thus his recommendation of the midnight to 4 a.m. timeframe.
KWI’s attorney offered a “mitigation strategy outside of an order of abatement,” a negotiated arrangement with the town that would be worked into KWI’s agreement to operate. He presented the position that KWI had taken on the project already sited, permitted and approved by the town. He suggested that the town’s ordering a slowdown of the turbine would essentially also ask itself to change characteristics inherent in permitting the project in the first place.
Board of Health Chairman Joe Casna interjected that his board’s charge was not to discuss permitting or the town’s contract with KWI, rather it was to mitigate the nuisance factor created by excess noise under certain conditions.
Talerman made it clear that his proposed order was designed to be flexible – protecting the neighborhood while providing least interruption for the turbine operation. He said KWI had the right to operate the Independence as long as it didn’t violate DEP regulations. He said the order provides mechanisms to revisit these issues.
Leland Road resident Sean Reilly challenged the appropriateness of KWI conducting its own study. Talerman said the study would be conducted within the same parameters. “It would enable us to compare apples to apples.” He also said that if self-monitoring by KWI were violated, that would put the company at risk. “They haven’t given us any reason to think they’d give false data.”
Reilly’s wife, Doreen, said the turbine should have been tested at maximum power. Talerman said that when the wind exceeds 11 meters per second the wind noise increases, raising ambient sound and lessening the turbine acoustic effect below the violation level. “You wouldn’t even hear the turbine at all,” he said.
Doreen Reilly concluded remarks with an impassioned plea for help in ridding the nuisance noise.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of adopting the abatement order, which will go into effect once language is cleaned up and the order is served to KWI. Board member John Breen voted against it.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding