SCITUATE – Complaints from residents about the noise generated by the wind turbine were down 65 percent during a pilot program initiated by Scituate over the summer.
Starting in June, the turbine was powered off between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. when the wind was coming from the southwest at speeds below 10 mph.
“During the four-and-one-half months test period, complaints from areas where disturbances were reported dropped from 25 incident-days in 2015, to nine incident-days in 2016,” said Jennifer Keefe, director of public health.
The Scituate wind turbine went online in March 2012. Shortly thereafter, several residents in the area complained of a “whoosing” sound that was interrupting sleep and causing other disturbances, primarily in late spring, summer and early fall nighttime hours.
“In September 2014, the board of health started tracking noise complaints versus various wind speed/direction conditions,” Keefe said. “Based upon an analysis of 20 months of data, it was determined that most complaints occurred during the summer with the wind coming from the southwest at less than 10 mph.”
According to Al Bangert, special projects director, summer months have more low wind periods than other times of the year.
“When it’s windy the impact is less on the residents,” he said. “Low level winds cause more of an impact because the sound is dispersed.”
When the turbine senses wind conditions fitting the set criteria, it will shut down for 10 minutes.
“They can’t turn it off and on,” Bangert said. “If it goes off for 10 minutes and conditions stay the same it stays off. If conditions change it goes back on.”
The town sees a reduction in turbine revenue if the turbine stops operating at certain times, Keefe said.
It also results in lost payment to the town from National Grid for the purchase of electricity.
“The lost revenue and out-of-pocket costs to implement the pilot abatement program was $1,940,” she said.
The annual cost of continuing the program is projected to be $1,000 to $2,000, depending upon weather conditions.
David Dardi, who lives in a neighborhood near the turbine and who has been vocal about the noise the turbine generates, praised the town, Keefe and Bangert for taking action.
“Whereas the data looks very good from the southwest, and this is really good for me, there are other people impacted by this when the wind is coming from other directions,” he said.
Keefe remains in contact with residents in the area, she said.
Selectmen approved programming the turbine to cease operation during occurrences of southwest winds of less than 10 mph during the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. from June 1 to Oct. 15.
“We’ll continue to see how we can refine it,” Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said. “Just because we did this doesn’t mean we’re going to stop tracking the data.”
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