SUTTON – A homeowner’s years-long case to prove the Sheffield Wind project is not operating within permitted noise limits took a small step forward now that the Vermont Public Service Board issued a monitoring plan to start this spring. The plan, though, does not use the method the homeowner wanted.
Paul Brouha has been asking state officials since 2011 to intervene, saying the noise levels permitted in wind development’s Certificate of Public Good (CPG) were being exceeded at his home in nearby Sutton.
Late last year, the Public Service Board (PSB), after reviewing data, ordered new testing be undertaken to test the wind project’s compliance with its CPG, and the two sides have since argued about the monitoring and data gathering protocol.
Brouha’s attorney, Denise Anderson, said she did not wish to comment on what she characterized as a partial decision in the matter.
Neither Brouha nor Vermont Wind/Sun Edison spokesman John Lamontagne could be reached for comment on the order Monday.
The order was issued in Montpelier on Thursday, according to the case file.
The PSB is requiring the wind company begin sound monitoring “to assess the compliance of the wind electric generation facility operated by Vermont Wind, LLC.”
The board recommended that the monitoring plan proposed by the Vermont Department of Public Safety commence to measure the sound at the Brouha residence, the six-page ruling shows.
“We direct the commencement of 24-hour monitoring at Mr. Brouha’s residence and nightly shutdowns of the Project’s turbines,” the PSB order states.
According to the ruling, “The Department suggests that, before finalizing all aspects addressed in the proposal for decision and the parties’ comments, the Board issue an initial order directing the commencement of 24-hour sound monitoring at Mr. Brouha’s residence and nightly shutdowns, in order to capture sound data during the early spring period as contemplated in the proposal for decision.”
“The Department further suggests that parties to the proceeding be given an additional opportunity to brief the Board on the nighttime turbine shutdown issue identified in its comments.”
“(T)he Hearing Officer recommends that the Board use a turbine-shutdown method to determine sound levels associated with the project,” the ruling states. “This method differs from the method advanced by Mr. Brouha, who recommended that the Board use a combination of shielded background and alternative background monitoring locations to determine sound levels at Mr. Brouha’s residence.”
The ruling stated that the sound monitoring data using the turbine shutdown-method could be used to “implement either Vermont Wind’s or the Department’s methods for calculating Project-only sound … but could not be used to implement Mr. Brouha’s proposed methodology.”
“We are persuaded that such a method is consistent with accepted best practices for determining sound levels from facilities such as the Project,” the decision states.
The ruling goes on, “Accordingly, we direct that monitoring be commenced at Mr. Brouha’s residence and that Vermont Wind commence nightly Project shutdowns as contemplated in the proposal for decision.”
The hearing officer also recommended an alternative principal monitoring location closer to the Project be used “if the spring monitoring campaign suggests the possibility of an inconclusive result.”
Vermont Wind and the Department had proposed data be collected in one-minute increments and specified the types of data to be logged, while “Mr. Brouha’s proposal did not state specific standards for data to be collected,” the order goes on. The order adopted the proposal made by the company and state department.
The monitoring plan requires “the three closest turbines to Mr. Brouha’s residence must be operating at 67 percent of their rated capacity or higher, and the remaining turbines should be operating at an average of 60 percent of the rated power output or higher.”
“These requirements are intended to ensure that data is analyzed using maximum sound power outputs from the Project,” the decision states.
The order states, “The proposal for decision requires Vermont Wind to produce meteorological tower data (and other data) for all 16 project turbines for each 10-minute interval measured,” the ruling goes on. “In its comments, Vermont Wind represents that due to a malfunction at the project’s meteorological tower some of the weather-related data is not available, but notes that the individual turbines have an instrument that measures ambient temperature, wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure, and air density.”
Vermont Wind and the state are asking for more time to resolve a concern over the method of data analysis proposed, noting that the level of background noise is typically higher during the day, and the method proposed for analysis “could have the effect of overstating project-only sound levels.”
Brouha “objects to any consideration of additional factors, evidence, or argument in view of the Department’s concern,” the PSB order states. “Mr. Brouha argues that the record in this proceeding has closed and that the Department is seeking to change the rules of the game in its proposed monitoring plan subsequent to the conclusion of hearings.”
The PSB notes they believe it is appropriate to hear more on the issues raised by the Department, including proposed resolutions.
Parties have until April 14 to file comments on the nighttime background noise issue raised by the state. Following that, the PSB will rule on the remaining issues not addressed in last week’s order.