SIBLEY—A wind farm run by a Juno Beach, FL-based energy company is finally in full compliance with a conditional use permit that allows the farm to operate in Osceola County near Harris.
David Levy, a lawyer representing NextEra Energy Resources, provided an update on the company’s compliance status during the county board of supervisors’ meeting Tuesday in Sibley.
The energy company had been granted the permit in March 2019 for a turbine blade replacement project. However, NextEra was required to satisfy county requirements regarding the turbines’ noise levels and shadow flicker the machines created for nearby landowners.
Those requirements meant either keeping the noise levels at or under the 50-decibel limit and shadow flicker at or under 30 hours a year or entering waiver agreements with affected landowners. The one-year period to reach those agreements expired at the end of March.
Board chairman Ed Jones asked Levy if the company submitted records to the county showing the agreements have been reached. Levy said the agreements have been executed and the company would e-mail copies of them to the county.
In cases where NextEra could not reach agreements with landowners, the company curtailed operations of turbines close to the county residents’ homes so the machines are within the acceptable noise and shadow flicker limits.
“There is no requirement then for a waiver or an agreement, so they’re in full compliance with the conditions,” Levy said.
At previous board meetings, the supervisors told NextEra there had been discrepancies between sound level numbers NextEra had and those that county residents were getting from their independent testing. Jones reminded Levy of those concerns.
“The modeling and everything’s great, but you could only go so far with a computer versus actually going out there and checking this out,” Jones said. “I was out there with folks checking sound levels and stuff. The modeling only goes so far.”
At the meeting with Levy to speak about those concerns was Rich Lampeter, a representative of Maynard, MA-based environmental engineering and consulting company, Epsilon Associates Inc.
“I’ve been doing sound-level modeling and measurements for wind energy projects since 2004, and I’ve done them across the United States,” Lampeter said. “The focus is primarily on modeling because that’s typically what’s required for the permit process.”
Lampeter acknowledged that factors such as wind noise and other real-world variables can impact decibel readings but explained the modeling takes those into account. He also explained the equipment tends to be more accurate than smartphone apps that measure decibels.
With the modeling data, he said NextEra can compare noise levels in the area when the turbines are turning versus when they are off to see what is contributing to the sound readings.
Jones countered by explaining some county residents have hired people to run noise tests using equipment other than smartphone apps. He also contended the modeling is a cheaper method for Epsilon to get sound data as opposed to physically going to the wind farm.
Levy argued Epsilon is not simply taking cost into account when relying on the modeling but uses it because modeling results are accurate and consistent.
“I don’t agree with that description of that, how that works,” Jones said. “You just haven’t read the data that I’ve looked at on it. It doesn’t match up with the modeling.”
Lampeter, however, explained the modeling is the only way to estimate what the sound levels will be in the future when the machines are running.
Jones said he was glad NextEra was at least in compliance with the permit and that landowners were happy with the agreements that were reached.
“This is good information for other folks that are looking at sticking windmills here in the future,” he said.
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