Russell acknowledged that the wind turbines generate noise — even more than the turbines installed in Chateaugay by Noble Environmental Power nearly a decade ago. But because the turbines meet the standards set by town law, there is little the town can do, he said.
BELLMONT – Wind towers in the town that have been the subject of noise complaints from residents meet town standards for the sound levels generated, Supervisor H. Bruce Russell said Monday.
Town officials and outside engineers conducted noise-level tests on two properties located near four turbines erected last year as part of the Jericho Rise wind farm project, Russell told Town Board members last week. “All tests confirm that the turbines were operating in compliance with our town laws,” Russell said.
The results mirror those from tests conducted by the town of Chateaugay in response to half a dozen complaints officials there had received since the towers went online at the end of last year.
Noise readings were generally below the 50-decibel limit set in town law, Russell said. The noise levels occasionally spiked above that limit but almost immediately returned to within acceptable levels, he said.
Both towns have local laws limiting the permissible amount of noise from the wind turbines to 50 decibels, when measured at the nearest “non-participating residence.” Property owners who receive benefits from allowing a turbine to be sited near their lands are not covered by the 50-decibel limit.
The turbine sites were chosen to be at least 1,000 feet from non-participating residences in Bellmont and a minimum of 1,320 feet from those residences in Chateaugay, according to the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement prepared for the project.
Noise generated by the operation of the turbines was studied under both the draft and supplemental Environmental Impact Statements prepared before the project was approved. The study done as part of the SEIS found that operational noise would generally remain below the 50-decibel limit, but “that some adverse reaction is possible from time to time – theoretically 10 percent of the time – during moderate … wind conditions.”
Russell also noted that passing traffic sometimes contributed to the noise-level jumps. Even a normal car driving by can temporarily drive the noise level above 50 decibels, he said.
“It’s amazing (the effect) the surrounding noise has on your testing,” Russell said.
Russell described how the tests, which were observed by the nearby property owners, were conducted. The decibel meters were calibrated, then measured the noise levels for 10 minutes, he said. After 10 minutes, the machines were recalibrated and run for an additional 10 minutes.
The tests were conducted on days during which the wind conditions –– both speed and direction –– were as close as possible to the conditions at the time the complaints were made, Russell added.
“We wanted to mirror, as close as we could, the situation when the complaint was filed,” he said.
Russell acknowledged that the wind turbines generate noise – even more than the turbines installed in Chateaugay by Noble Environmental Power nearly a decade ago. But because the turbines meet the standards set by town law, there is little the town can do, he said.
Those who filed complaints have been notified of the test results. “If we hear back, we’ll have to take further steps,” Russell said, although he acknowledged he didn’t know what those steps might be.
The town will have to determine how to deal with the situation and see if officials can figure out “how are our residents going to get comfortable with it,” he said.
The supervisor also noted that the wind towers have only been in operation a short time, and said the complaints may fade as residents get used to the noise being generated.
Bellmont hosts eight of the 37 wind towers erected for the Jericho Rise wind farm; the remainder are in Chateaugay.
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