There’s new hope on the horizon for Antrim residents who previously felt their complaints about excessive noise and lights coming from the Antrim Wind installation were going ignored. The state’s Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), which oversees energy facilities throughout the state and enforces any compliance issues, committed to addressing their mechanisms for complaint filing and investigation, public notification of meetings, and wind turbine noise standards at a meeting on Thursday afternoon. The meeting came after a number of residents said they weren’t notified about a November meeting, when the SEC accepted a report indicating that noise levels from the site’s nine turbines were in compliance.
“The word that comes to mind first is hopeful,” Antrim resident Richard Block said in an interview Friday. Block lives on Tuttle Hill, which overlooks the turbines, and his comments at the meeting addressed what he saw as the SEC’s “deliberate” inaction to address ongoing complaints about noise and flashing lights that exceed permissible levels, and ongoing failures to notify Antrim residents or officials about meetings on the project.
“I feel like there was some listening happening yesterday, which was good,” Block said, and that commissioners seemed genuinely concerned about the public’s complaints, and how to address them.
To that extent, the SEC agreed to task a subcommittee with investigating complaints as well as examining their noise standards as they apply to wind projects, and communicate further with the state legislators who intervened on residents’ behalf.
Noise measurements are the chief concern for State Senator Ruth Ward, one legislator who contacted the SEC about the turbines.
“We need to settle the sound issue,” Ward said Friday, adding that she was glad the SEC appointed a subcommittee to explore it. The SEC has been accepting data that averages noise levels over time, Ward said, a “totally wrong” method for something like a wind turbine.
Former president of New Hampshire Wind Watch Lori Lerner said as much in her testimony on Thursday, when she compared the methodology to driving 110 miles an hour in a 70 mph zone, and then trying to justify it by saying your average speed had been within the limits since you’d been driving much slower earlier.
“Please, when you consider noise with a wind turbine, that it is sometimes loud and sometimes quiet,” Lerner told committee members, reminding them that the intent of their rules ought to be a “shall not exceed” limit.
The project’s motion-activated lighting also hasn’t worked correctly since its installation, Lerner said. The blinking red lights on the towers frequently stay on around the clock rather than just activating when an aircraft approaches, as they were intended to, she said, and it’s been a year since both Antrim Wind and the SEC were alerted to the problem, with no fixes to show for it.
Complaints submitted to the SEC had previously been handled by an administrator, but the SEC currently lacks funding to refill that position, Chair Dianne Martin said at the meeting. The subcommittee, like the administrator, would hire outside experts to investigate specific complaints, Martin said. Although Antrim Wind is funding those investigations, such an arrangement is “standard operating procedure” for projects like these, committee member Susan Duprey told listeners. “It is completely common and appropriate for us to have the applicant pay,” for investigations, she said, so long as the actual investigator was not affiliated with the wind company, she said.
The SEC would be wise to come up with a better process for post-construction monitoring of wind projects, as the issues facing Antrim Wind aren’t the first of their kind, and there are likely to be even more wind projects installed throughout the state in the future, Eaton resident Nancy Watson told committee members.
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