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Study: Monroe turbines too noisy

MONROE — Acoustic testing of the Hoosac Wind turbines in Monroe and Florida show that noise levels have exceeded the maximum decibel range permissible for the 19-turbine New England Wind facility.

Wind turbines in Massachusetts are not allowed to exceed the ambient noise-level of their surroundings by more than 10 decibels. But in four measurement samples taken in January and February, acoustic engineers found higher-than-acceptable noise levels in both Monroe and Florida. The “loudest” of these tests occurred on Feb. 20, when the average turbine noise in Monroe and Florida was about 17 decibels above the general noise of surroundings, when no turbines were running. The unusual sound-level was attributed to ice on the turbine blades.

The parent company, Iberdrola Renewables, has promised to take corrective measures by year’s end. In a letter sent to the Western Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection office on April 28, the company says it will:

∎ Install trailing edge serrations (saw-like edges) on the blades to reduce the overall turbine sound.

∎ Develop an operational protocol to address potential turbine noise for when the blades are coated with ice.

∎ Hire an independent engineering service to “study the tonality in more detail.” According to Western Mass. DEP spokeswoman Catherine Skiba, a tonality study is a detailed analysis of where on the turbine the sounds are coming from.

The letter goes on to say that “New England Wind will review these results with DEP once the study is completed.

The testing first took place in 2013, after DEP had received numerous noise complaints from residents in Clarksburg and Florida, said Skiba. She said the DEP requested additional sites to be tested, on Tilda Hill in Monroe and on Moores Road, which were performed this year, on Jan. 9 and Feb. 20.

Since the letter was written, Iberdrola Renewables has invited 60 neighbors to an information session, to hear landowners’ concerns, give them copies of the sound test results and discuss the planned modifications.

Skiba said the DEP has received 58 complaints since the 28.5-megawatt wind farm started up, in December 2012.

Nine of the 340-foot-tall wind turbines are located in Monroe and 10 are situated in Florida.

The sound analysis was done by RSG Inc, an independent Vermont-based company that specializes in acoustic analysis.

According to GE, the manufacturer of these turbines, the average wind-turbine sound is about 43 decibels, which is slightly louder than a refrigerator (40 dBs) but softer than an air-conditioner (50 dBs).

The ambient noise-level in Florida and Monroe without running turbines, about 27 dBs, is almost at the bottom of the noise scale; so a 10-decibel increase is a noticeable increase in loudness.

Opponents of the windmills have repeatedly cited noise pollution as a concern.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

The message from Iberdrola Renewables promising to take corrective measures by year’s end is simply another delayed abatement while violations likely continue. The DEP re-inspection might not come for a year or more due to limited staff and funding. A known violation allowed to persist, even after found noncompliant with noise limit regulation, is ostensibly understood as a direct dereliction of MassDEP duties, who chief duty... is to enforce the law.

After 19 months the neighbors of Hoosac Wind are finally vindicated. Only some of us are crazy! GE is not telling that 43 dbA is compared to 27 dbA is relatively NOISY and is more than 2X! Then we have low frequency sounds which adds to the disturbance. If it's not enough to get up more then a few mornings not sleeping well, there are other intrusions into our homes and lives because of the project. We went from quiet rural neighborhood to industrial zone. What was once a large forested habitat with scenic opportunities and solitude became a blasted area devoid of trees and swamps and filled in with crushed rock with huge industrial wind turbines. It was the "Enchanted Forest" and now that's gone...

We live in Clarksburg on the Bakke Mountain side of Hoosac Wind and none of the neighbors on this side of the mountain received any invitation from Iberdrola despite complaints from our neighborhood. It wasn't until after I inquired to MassDEP after recieving the report from another source any notice the study had been performed or published 3 months after the report was done. We were also informed MassDEP has no intention of testing on this side, despite complaints. My question is, how is Hoosac Wind going to be known if Hoosac Wind is out of compliance if the state doesn't require sound monitoring? Testing done on this side in Spring 2013, had equipment behind trees and in the woods when open areas were nearby and no sampling in the conditions which wake us up and keep us from sleeping. We are loosing more than sleep here as a result of Hoosac Wind.

Independent acousticians have questioned the validity of the findings, claiming that the noise level is higher than the test showed. The testing was reportedly done when the turbines were only working at half power and the instruments used to record the sound were placed in such a way as they would not get the most accurate readings. It is also important to point out that the negative health impact comes primarily from the low frequency sound that penetrates homes and was not measured.

Every wind turbine tested by MassDEP has been found to be in violation of noise pollution regulations. The remedy accepted by the authorities has been a pseudo mitigation plan that is not only ineffective in eliminating the nuisance and health impacts of the noise pollution, but has no provisions for any monitoring to ensure compliance, accepting the developers' assurance of compliance. The MassDEP remedy is a whitewash. MassDEP technicians get credit for discovering and reporting the problem, but management is busy covering it up in the false belief that clean wind energy is worth the sacrifice of those impacted. The law is the law. Please enforce it!

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