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Brian Dubie: More questions on Swanton wind project  

Our community has taken a great interest in the proposed Swanton industrial wind project.

In order to evaluate any proposed project we need to focus on the facts and the benefits and impacts of this proposed project.

Here are some facts and some additional questions about this proposed project.

According to Vermont Department of Public Service, living near an industrial wind site is “indicative of a significant impairment of quality of life.” In response to a motion for relief filed by residents who live 3,800 feet from the Georgia Mountain industrial wind project filed on Nov. 2, the Vermont Department of Public Service wrote the following: “it finds the issues raised in the Motion to be credible and serious. The Department has no reason to think that the sleep disturbances and other health impacts cited are fabricated or exaggerated. Nor does the Department have cause to question the veracity of the range or severity of their health symptoms. The same can be said of the complaints the Department has received from other residents living near the GMCW and other commercial wind sites … It is … indicative of a significant impairment of the quality of life for some nearby residents.”

Significant impairment of quality of life is why the Georgia Board of Civil Authority lowered the assessed property values of residents who live close to the Georgia Mountain industrial wind project. The Swanton industrial wind project proposes to put larger turbines much closer to the families who live on Rocky Ridge. The Department of Public Service states there is a “significant impairment of the quality of life” for residents within 3,800 feet. How would they characterize the quality of life for the 34 families that would be within 2,500 feet of seven proposed 499-foot tall wind turbines on Rocky Ridge?

RSG Inc., the developer’s hired consultants, published a Georgia Mountain Noise Impact Study. According to RSG, one GE 2.75-120 generates 106 dBA and “if we add two equal sources together, the resulting sound level will be 3 dB higher.” Swanton Wind proposes to erect not two, but seven 499-foot industrial wind turbines. According to the RSG’s noise study, a chainsaw is rated at 110 dBA. Noise does attenuate over distance. However according to RSG, “Harder ground generally increases the sound level at a receiver.” Rocky Ridge, as the name implies, is very hard ground.

The current noise standard written by the Public Service Board says that the turbine noise outside your open bedroom window, averaged over an hour, should not exceed 45 dBA. This means that you could start up a vacuum cleaner (70 dBA) every five minutes and you would still meet the noise standard. For comparison, Denmark’s noise standard is not to exceed 37 dBA at night, which is much more restrictive because Vermont’s standard is an average measured over an hour. A recently conducted Canadian Health study found “people who are exposed to greater than 40 dBA” will be “extremely or highly annoyed” and the study connects annoyance and health. The Canadian Health study states: “Wind turbine noise annoyance was found to be statistically related to several self-reported health effects including, but not limited to, blood pressure, migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, scores on the PSQI, and perceived stress.”

On Dec. 22, the FAA issued a determination of no hazard to air navigation. However, the FAA also states the turbines may impact their search radars. The FAA stated; “Proposed wind turbine blades will be within direct, radar line-of-sight relative to the FAA Saint Albans (QHB) enroute radar antenna. Each wind turbine blade has rotational velocity that may be detected as a (unwanted) search radar target while multiple wind turbines will increase the potential to detect unwanted search radar targets. Impacted Air Traffic Control Facilities: Boston Center, Burlington Approach Control, Wheeler Sack Airport Control. MITIGATION: 1) A mitigation of the Technical Operations surveillance objection may be to implement range and azimuth mapping of the project area to reduce/eliminate the resultant unwanted targets, however, the probability of real aircraft (search radar) target detection for all altitudes above this area will be affected/reduced.” Will ratepayers be asked to pay to mitigate FAA radar? Will ratepayers be asked to pay the costs of liability insurance for a project where the FAA states, “probability of real aircraft detection will be affected/reduced”?

We are also concerned about the impact on water quality of Lake Champlain and Fairfield Pond. The developer states that they will clear-cut 39 acres of forest on Rocky Ridge. A clear-cut and disturbed soil on a ridge line means potential erosion. The developer has stated the project will create nine acres of impervious surface on Rocky Ridge. For reference, the Wal-Mart parking lot in St. Albans is seven acres. Would a Wal-Mart sized impervious surface and a 39 acre clear-cut on a ridgeline pose a threat to water quality in the lake or Fairfield Pond?

Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

We will keep asking questions of the developer and his consultants to get him to understand our concerns his proposed industrial wind project poses to the quality of life of the residents on Rocky Ridge and the ratepayers, and protecting the water quality of the lake and Fairfield Pond.

[rest of article available at source]

This commentary is by Brian Dubie, of Fairfield, who is chair of the Vermont Aerospace and Aviation Association. He served as Vermont’s lieutenant governor from 2003-2011 and is a pilot for American Airlines.

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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