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Noise from Jericho Rise wind farm meets legal limits, Chateaugay officials say

CHATEAUGAY –– The turbine towers erected for the Jericho Rise wind farm project comply with town restrictions on the amount of noise they can generate –– but that doesn’t mean they aren’t noisy, town officials said Monday.

Supervisor Don Bilow said the town had the level of noise created by the towers checked after receiving half a dozen formal complaints and one informal complaint about the sound being generated over the past several weeks. The investigation found that none of the towers exceeded the limit of 50 decibels measured at a minimum distance of 1,320 feet under normal atmospheric conditions, as outlined in town law, Bilow said.

But that doesn’t mean the turbines are quiet, said Councilman Fred Cook.

Under the right conditions, the noise generated by the turbines can “sound like low-flying planes,” Cook said.

“When the wind’s just right,” the noise can be heard quite clearly, even at a distance and inside a building, said town Highway Superintendent Roger LaBombard. The amount of humidity in the air can also affect how the sound can be transmitted, Cook said.

The turbines are clearly audible in the town highway garage, LaBombard said, although he added that he soon became accustomed to the noise and learned to tune it out.

The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement prepared before the project was approved noted that “some adverse reaction is possible from time to time – theoretically 10% of the time – during moderate … wind conditions.”

“Operational sound emissions from wind turbines are often unsteady and variable with time largely because the wind does not always blow in a completely smooth and ideal manner. When unsettled air or gusty winds interact with the rotor, or the airflow is not perfectly perpendicular to the rotor plane, a temporary increase in turbulence and noise results,” the SEIS stated.

The Jericho Rise turbines appear to generate more noise than the older turbines erected by Noble Environmental Power nearly a decade ago, Cook said. “They’re way louder than the first ones, no doubt about it,” Cook said.

Councilman Bill Trombly said the problems generated by the Jericho Rise towers may not be so much the level of noise as the type of noise they produce. He noted that some sounds, even at low decibels, can be far more annoying than other sounds at higher decibels, but added that he could think of no way to regulate the type of noise being generated.

The 37-turbine wind farm project –– with 29 towers Chateaugay and eight in the neighboring town of Bellmont ––went online right around the start of the year.

Bellmont officials have also reported receiving several complaints about the noise generated by the turbines.