State regulators have closed the books on a resident’s complaint about noise from wind turbines on Georgia Mountain after further analysis of recordings found no need to investigate any longer.
The five turbines have drawn sustained opposition from some neighbors, who have accused Georgia Mountain Community Wind of violating noise conditions in its permit.
The Public Service Board’s ruling last week stems from a complaint made in September 2015 by Melodie McLane. She lives with her family about 3,800 feet from the nearest turbine.
The turbines aren’t allowed to produce more than 45 decibels outside the homes of close neighbors or 30 decibels inside. If they’re found to have exceeded 40 decibels outside neighboring homes, the project’s permit requires further testing to determine whether they’ve violated the interior limit.
Sound modeling by the Department of Public Service and Georgia Mountain Community Wind after McLane’s complaint found that the turbines didn’t exceed the overall outside limit.
However, Public Service Board officers have said the turbines may have been loud enough to trigger further testing to determine indoor levels.
That conclusion was based on a series of test measurements during the first year of the turbines’ operation in 2013, several of which exceeded the 40-decibel threshold requiring indoor testing.
Based on analysis of those recordings, PSB hearing officer John Cotter said last fall that there was a “reasonable possibility” the turbines had exceeded their indoor sound limits in September 2015, as McLane alleged.
But Georgia Mountain Community Wind said the 2013 measurements were contaminated by sounds the turbines didn’t produce.
Based in part on that argument, the PSB reached a preliminary conclusion in January that the company didn’t need to do more testing to see if the indoor sound was too loud.
However, the board gave McLane and the Department of Public Service the option to challenge that conclusion.
McLane has said several times that she does not want Georgia Mountain Community Wind’s contractors testing sound levels in her home, and she didn’t challenge the board’s findings.
The Department of Public Service contracted Aercoustics, of Mississauga, Ontario, to further analyze recordings from the turbines. The acoustic consulting firm determined sound levels didn’t exceed 40 decibels.
Based on that, the department declined to seek additional sound measurements inside the McLane home.
McLane was not immediately available for comment on the closing of the case.
David Blittersdorf, a principal in the Georgia Mountain wind project, said he was pleased by the ruling but dismayed by the additional time and expense the investigation had required.
“The process from the state and regulatory agencies is expanding, I call it exponentially,” Blittersdorf said.
Large numbers of complaints from a small number of residents living next to wind and solar projects have unreasonably slowed the development of renewable energy, he said, and have created a litigious and expensive environment for entrepreneurs.
Compared to five years ago, he said, “everything takes three times longer and is three times more expensive.”
“It’s the wrong way to get energy reduction and to meet our renewable energy targets,” Blittersdorf said.
“By having a very few people constantly bringing up stuff over and over, it gets very costly,” he said. “If it were thousands of people, that would be different, but it isn’t.”
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