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Sheffield wind noise investigation concluded

SHEFFIELD – A probe into noise levels which allegedly exceeded its state-issued Certificate of Public Good (CPG) at the industrial wind project in Sheffield has been closed officially by the Vermont Public Utilities Commission (PUC). A recent order also approved a stipulation between the owners of the energy plant, Vermont Wind, LLC, and the neighbor who pushed for the investigation.

The CPG allowing the wind project to operate was issued by the state body in October of 2007.

Nearby homeowner Paul Brouha, who lives in Sutton, began raising concerns with state officials over noise from turbines near his home in 2011, the public record shows.

The complaint dates back to 2014 when Brouha brought the complaint to then Vermont Public Service Board, alleging that the wind project’s towering turbines were creating noise levels inside his and his wife Carol’s home that exceeded what was legally permitted by the state’s granting of the CPG.

A 6-page order was signed off on in the past month, the public record for the ruling shows.

The announcement states that a “Confidential Settlement Agreement” was also struck between Brouha and Vermont Wind and entered into on Feb. 3 of this year.

Reached on Monday, Brouha said he has a press release prepared, but on legal counsel is not issuing it or commenting until the appeal period concludes on May 12.

Stipulation Agreement Order

In the stipulation, “Vermont Wind acknowledges Mr. Brouha’s complaints, over several years, claiming that sound levels from the Project exceed the CPG interior noise limit and, while Vermont Wind believes that the sound monitoring and assessment of interior levels have been exceedingly difficult under the circumstances, it nonetheless expresses sincere regret that the operation of the Project may have caused Mr. Brouha and his family any inconvenience or annoyance, and further, Vermont Wind wishes to implement the agreed-upon operational protocols and other components of this Stipulation.”

According to the agreement, “The results of the two sound-monitoring campaigns demonstrate the difficulty of accurately measuring Project sound levels at Mr. Brouha’s residence, with the first campaign yielding inconclusive data and revised methodology of the second campaign still not producing a dataset that satisfied the sample-size requirement of the sound-monitoring plan adopted by the Commission.”

“Although the question of whether a violation occurred has not been litigated to judgment and it is possible that a violation could have been established after opportunity for hearing, no party at this point has presented clear evidence of a violation,” of the CPG, the order and agreement states.

Because the agreement was reached in the years-long dispute over the sound levels, the PUC has officially closed the investigation.

3 Turbines Restricted Operations

“The operational restrictions require Vermont Wind to shut down certain Project turbines based on wind direction, time of year, and time of day,” the resolution details.

The restriction covers times when the wind direction is at or between 260 and 360 degrees to the Project turbines during the following times:

– From May 1 to June 30 between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. for turbines 14-16;

– From July 1 to Aug. 31 between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., for turbine 16; and

– From Sept. 1 to Sept. 30 between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. for turbines 14-16.

Also included in the stipulation is a compliance-verification procedure “that requires Vermont Wind to send weekly shutdown verification reports to Mr. Brouha.”

The DPS will participate in this process for the first two years of the agreement by reviewing data and will likewise receive the reports that Brouha gets, the record shows.

At the end of the 2-year period of the restrictions being followed and reported to the parties, the DPS will hire an independent consultant to review those reports and report the findings to both Brouha and the DPS, the ruling continues.