SUTTON – A Sutton homeowner who has continued to press the Vermont’s Public Utilities Commission to investigate whether the Sheffield Wind project is exceeding permitted noise levels appears justified by a recent report showing the 16-turbine wind tower installations are too loud.
The Department of Public Service (DPS) had an independent consultant record noise levels at the wind project during high wind conditions between May and September. The report found that “noise levels are as much as 5 decibels louder than the standard permitted in the CPG issued for the project,” stated Paul Brouha, the homeowner within earshot of the turbines.
The Brouha’s live about a mile from the Sheffield Wind Farm.
“One of the things that was so troubling was, that right at the outset, when we filed a complaint in December of 2011, the State didn’t want to hear it, and they just accepted at face value what the developer told them,” said Brouha, reached for comment on Monday. “We basically now have proven it three times and it looks like they finally are now acknowledging that what we said is accurate; we actually had to file a motion to compel before they would actually give us a date when they were going to produce this report.
We were very concerned, because you get into another holiday and then all of a sudden, another year goes by,” said Brouha.
“First of all, the Public Utility Commission has to validate that finding,” Brouha said of the report’s findings. “From there, they need to bring the project into compliance with the noise standard.
If you have northwest winds, and the turbines are putting out like 65 percent of their output or more, then we have what amounts to a very noisy condition. So what we’re trying to do is to get them to define what they need to do, and what we’re probably going to propose is that when we have those weather conditions – which you might call downwind conditions; we are downwind of the project – with a wind speed above a certain threshold, that they will turn off the closest three turbines. What we’re saying is do that until you come up with a more refined strategy.”
“I do think right now they’re living with the legacy of previous administrations,” said Brouha. “I do think they’re trying to do what’s right, it doesn’t alter the fact that seven years have gone by, or almost seven years.”
It was Brouha’s complaint to the state that forced the consultant to be hired to do further sound monitoring near his home on Queen Elizabeth Farm Lane in Sutton, neighboring the Sheffield border.
“This finding comes as no surprise. This complaint should have been resolved in 2012,” stated Brouha.
The 43-page report was prepared for the DPS by Aerocoustics Engineering, Ltd., a firm based in Ontario; it was made public on Friday.
According to the report, “The principal measurement location is west of the bedroom window, roughly 15 meters away from the facade of Mr. Brouha’s residence. “Based on sound levels indicated in this report, the sound level limits from the Facility during the maximum sound output condition exceed the sound limit by 3-5 dB (decibels) during the months of May to September, when the windows-open assumption for Outdoor-to-Indoor Level Reduction would apply.
The consultant’s report notes that “One method of reducing the Facility sound output is to shutdown wind turbines near the residence.”
The Brouha home is located about a mile east of Vermont Wind’s 420 foot tall turbines.
“When my parents fled the German advance in WWII and came to this country, they settled here because of the natural beauty, the remoteness, and the peace and quiet of the place. All my life growing up and now retired here, right up to the time construction of the project started, we were able to enjoy these activities,” stated Brouha. “Now we experience long periods of time when the noise from the turbines continues with no let up and the flashing blades and blinking lights catch the eye – we’ve lost our quiet, our natural countryside, and our peaceful night skies and now live next to an industrial energy generation facility.”
The wind project in Sheffield operates as Vermont Wind, LLC and is owned by TerraForm Power.
Chad Reed, a spokesman for TerraForm, on Tuesday said, “We continue to review the recently published third-party acoustics report, which, among other sources, may inform local authorities on their ultimate findings.”
“We remain committed to providing clean renewable energy to our customers and working alongside the local communities in which we operate,” said Reed.
Jim Porter, director for Public Advocacy, Vermont Department of Public Service, on Tuesday said of the report’s findings and what will happen next, said, “Really with this, there are two options, one is the parties could agree to a sound mitigation plan and absent that the Public Utility Commission will have to decide on a sound mitigation plan. Obviously, we’re hopeful the parties will be able to reach an agreement, but if they are unable to we’ll have to order that the Commission orders a mitigation plan.”